Cell Phones on Airplanes Still an Issue

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Last updated April 12, 2019

The great majority of people who have traveled on planes will have witnessed someone shutting off their new or old cell phone after being told to by airline staff.  The debate as to whether or not leaving a cell phone on during either take-off or landing really is dangerous was highlighted recently when actor Alec Baldwin was ejected from a flight after refusing to turn off his cell phone.  In the process, Baldwin became something of an icon for those who believe the rule is well past its sell-by date.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” admits passenger Drew Keeth.  “I am usually in the middle of an email, or game of solitaire or something.” Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, the Aviation and Safety Consultant for CBS News, admits that “People think it’s no big deal and for the most part it isn’t” but qualifies that by pointing out that occasionally an airplane can find itself in the middle of an unexpected situation.  “The bottom line for me is very simple – none of us has the right to put others at risk for our own convenience.”

While documented problems caused by cell phones are very rare, they do sometimes happen, notes Boeing engineer Dave Carson. Mr. Carson points to incidents such as an Airbus A230 that was on approach to land in Detroit when all communication with the air traffic control frequencies became blocked by the cell phone of a passenger searching for service, the problem ending when the phone was shut off.