For many travelers, airplane flights are the last bastion of escape from being available 24/7. Which is one reason that the increasing availability of Internet access on planes is a mixed blessing. And partly why the FAA seems in no hurry to allow cell phone use in the sky.
But unfortunately for those who cherish their peace and quiet on a plane, there’s already a way around the cellphone ban. It’s called Skype.
For luddites — and I am generally one — Skype is a way of talking on the phone via the Internet. And it’s allowed, at least for now, on airlines that have WiFi in the sky.
One of my clients, in fact, cheerfully told me that he flies Virgin America whenever possible because he can carry on a conversation with his office in Asia for the entire flight. Which I’m sure just thrills his seat mates.
A chatty seatmate can be a distraction, but at least there’s the option of burying your nose in a book. But a seatmate talking nonstop, even softly, is hard to ignore. At least crying babies usually quiet down or fall asleep at some point. And already frazzled flight attendants are likely to bear the brunt of the problem, especially if angry nearby passengers expect them to make offenders shut up.
Presumably as more and more airlines offer WiFi — which seems likely, since it’s a revenue source — this problem is going to get worse.
And then what? Limits on conversation during certain times, for example on redeye flights? Talking and no talking zones?
Or (since the airlines seem bound and determined to turn anything they can into a revenue generator) noise-canceling headset rental?
One thing is pretty sure: the issue is going to come up. Let’s hope it isn’t as a result of an “air rage” incident.