Plans were recently announced by Ofcom to allow mobile phones on flights in EU airspace thanks to new developments in technology which eliminate the danger to navigational systems. The airlines were delighted – here was a new attraction to passengers which didn’t cost them much money to implement. They were most probably very surprised when the news was received to a chorus of disapproval.
We are used to not using laptops and mp3 players during take-off and landing, but mobile phones were banned on planes altogether because of two reasons: radiowaves emitted by handsets can interfere with the two-way radio used by pilots, and they can skew the avionics (the on-board systems which control the plane).
However, airliners can now carry a hub (rather like a wireless broadband router) which makes the use of mobile phones safe. But the news was not well received. Why could this be?
After all, long-haul flights are tedious. Being able to chat or text a friend is great for relieving the boredom. Not to mention being able to make contact with people if your flight is stuck in the Heathrow holding pattern. Perhaps you could also play some games on your phone or surf the net while the hours fly by.
On the other hand, planes are a confined space. Everyone has sat next to someone on the train who natters all the way home, usually shouting, and giving far too much information about certain things. Train journeys are already made miserable enough thanks to mobile phones, but if things get really bad you can at least move carriage or get off and walk around until the next train – but the thought of similar happening all the way through a flight is enough to make most people look into the costs of parachutes!
Also, just as you’re settling down to sleep, imagine how you would feel when your neighbour’s phone serenades us with it’s very witty (to the owner) ringtone, and he searches all his pockets looking for it while jabbing you with his sharp elbows.
Ofcom has left it to the airlines to sort out these issues. How they do this remains to be seen. Maybe the airlines will accept this as a good excuse for an upgrade…
If you are taking your mobile phone on a trip – whether you are using it on a plane or not – make sure it is sufficiently insured. 24/7 travel insurance offers valuables cover of up to £150 on their Standard policy, and £300 on their Premier travel insurance policies* and cover starts from under a fiver**. But don’t put it in your hold baggage as you will not be able to claim for losses arising from that!
*Single Trip and Annual Multi-trip policies only
**Premium £4.86 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a ‘standard’ Single Trip policy for 3 days in Europe and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.