Incidents of customer misconduct on airplanes increased for the third year in a row, reaching more than 1300 in 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal. Flight attendants say the refusal to turn off electronic devices, such as Blackberries or iPhones, is the top cause.
In December 2011, Alec Baldwin got into an altercation with American Airlines staff over his refusal to end a game of Words With Friends. I’m not an Alec Baldwin fan, but I can understand his addiction to WWF. However, Baldwin escalated the tension, tweeting about the incident, and in retaliation, American released a statement saying that Baldwin refused to follow FAA regulations, adding “The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language.” (Who, Alec Baldwin, the charmer? No!) Meanwhile, other passengers sat in their seats tweeting away about the altercation, but no one else was asked to leave the plane, prompting his publicist, Matthew Hiltzik, to tweet, “hey @American_AA: How come ok 4 other 1st class passengers 2 tweet while @alecbaldwin asked to leave while using his device? #hypocrisy.” He later issued an apology.
In December 2010, Josh Duhamel was asked three times to turn off his cell phone. When he refused, the pilot turned the plane around and took it back to the gate where the actor was escorted off the plane by two officers. He later said, “I learned that it’s best to always turn them off. Not my favorite moment.” At least he had the grace to be embarrassed.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there is a good reason for the ban. The 800 MHz frequency most cell phones and wireless devices use could potentially disrupt onboard instruments. The science of the so-called cell phone ban is, at best, divided; we all know someone who has ignored the repeated calls to turn off our gadgets without causing the flight to fall from the sky.
Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study in 2006 and found cell phone signals used in flight could interfere with GPS systems. Flight crews have reported everything from radio static to false alarms on collision-avoidance systems, but these effects could not be duplicated in controlled lab testing.
Just follow the rules and turn your devices off. The Internet will still be there once you land.