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In-flight irritation

Airlines are making progress in giving us in-flight Wi-Fi, but do we want to be given free reign to use all personal electronic devices, including mobile phones, as well?

In-flight irritation
commentary Airlines are making progress in giving us in-flight Wi-Fi, but do we want to be given free reign to use all personal electronic devices, including mobile phones, as well?

Call me naive -- I don't travel nearly as much as I'd like to -- but on a recent flight, after finding my seat and putting my iPod on, I was surprised to receive a tap on the shoulder by a flight attendant informing me that MP3 players cannot be used until the seat belt light goes off after take-off.

After politely complying and putting the player in my bag, I was left wondering why such a rule exists. The concern that mobile phones are a potential hazard during flights is well documented, but is there any evidence to suggest MP3 players can cause unwanted interference during take-off?

Perhaps it's an instance of better safe than sorry. In any case, most airlines now allow the use of PDAs, BlackBerrys and phones after take-off if the device supports a "flight mode" feature that switches off the radio transmitter and prevents calls being made.

However, not everyone takes heed of flight safety rules and many are cynical of reports of mobile phones being blamed for sending aviation systems haywire. During a taxi ride home the other night, I was chatting to the driver who was obviously a sceptic -- or just plain ignorant. He told me how he often calls friends from his 3G phone during his regular flights between Sydney and Perth. Stunned, my only response was, "how's the reception up there?" Apparently, it is fine.

Just listening to him prattle away about his disregard for the ban for the entire drive was enough for me to wish I was 10,000 metres up in the air listening to anything but his voice. But then the thought of having to sit next to him on the plane while he talked incessantly on the phone made me cringe equally.

What do you think of the rules surrounding electronic devices usage during flights? If the ban is lifted on mobile phones, does the thought of noisy passengers bother you? Have your say below!

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