Criminalizing Cell Phone Use on Planes

The Hang Up Act was proposed because the public doesn't want to be subjected to people talking on their cellphones on an already over-packed airplane.

Does anyone really want to spend a three-hour flight sitting next to gossipin' Gabby, or talkative Tommy? I didn't think so. Neither do members of congress, who recently proposed to make in-flight mobile calling services illegal.

Yes, illegal, as in against the law. The HANG UP Act was proposed to the House of Representatives by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.). DeFazio addressed the House and said, "The public doesn't want to be subjected to people talking on their cellphones on an already over-packed airplane." I wholeheartedly agree.

It's bad enough to have to sit next to people who talk while the plane is still at the gate. I've heard countless businessmen try to wrap up calls before take-off, as well as the errant person coo-cooing into their phone with their significant other. And typically you only have to deal with this for 10 to 20 minutes. Think about how bad it would be through the length of a cross-country flight. No thanks.

DeFazio and Costello weren't the only ones supporting the HANG Up Act. Members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure also voiced support for the bill.

DeFazio said, "With Internet access just around the corner on U.S. flights, it won't be long before the ban on voice communications on in-flight planes is lifted. Our bill, the HANG UP Act, would ensure that financially strapped airlines don't drive us towards this noisome disruption in search of further revenue."

There's no question that air carriers need to get some more money flowing in their direction. I'd say that adding mobile calling services--which will cost a premium, of course--is not the way to do it. Making customers happier with the entire traveling experience could entice them to travel more. I, for one, have had some pretty rough airline travel experiences in the past 12 months. The worst of which was an eight-hour weather related delay while on the tarmac at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Costello's words paint an obvious picture. "Last year was one of the worst on record for flight cancellations, delays and lost luggage," he said. "Now is not the time to consider making the airline passenger-experience any worse, and using cellphones in-flight would do just that. Polls show that the American public is strongly opposed to allowing cellphone use in-flight. They don't just oppose the idea, they hate it, and the HANG UP Act will make sure it does not happen."

Whether or not this bill will get any traction in Congress is another issue altogether. The fact that we have to start legislating common courtesy is a sign of just where our society stands.