Monday, February 13, 2006

Rerun: PDA Separation Anxiety

I like my electronic gadgets as much as the next gal, and understand the growing dependence we’ve all come to have with these items. I can’t imagine leaving home without my cell phone and PDA in my purse, my laptop in my carryon, and certain battery operated devices in my suitcase.

But what I don’t understand is the inability of people to turn these items off for the few minutes that it takes us to close the aircraft door, taxi out, take off, and get up to cruising altitude, when most items can once again be turned back on. Blackberry and Treo users seem to be the worst offenders, so will refer to this problem as PDA separation anxiety.

Like all forms of separation anxiety, it is a deep and abiding belief that the earth as we know it will not continue to rotate on its axis if the individual is not at all times electronically available. Really and truly, this is not the case.

It is okay to turn off your phone, PDA and computer before the Flight Attendants ask you to do so. In fact, it is preferable to do so. However, it is mandatory that you turn them off before you are asked for the third time. I think of this as the three-strikes rule.

Just turn the damn thing off so we can get going. You are not that important. You are causing a delay for an entire cabin of passengers who will soon become surly because I am going to tell them that the reason we are still sitting at the gate is because we have a passenger that is too important to be unavailable to their clamoring public.

If this seems too difficult for you to master, or you believe it is an unreasonable request, may I suggest a therapist before your next flight.

Originally posted: September 29, 2005.


JoeyC said...

If you are that important, you'll get your own jet to fly on next time.

My mom has an ever better policy - I call it... the "OFF WHEN I F****G SAY SO!" rule.

She won't get disrespectful to passengers, but I've seen her do it... she's stern sounding, but not rude... "Sir, PLEASE turn it off... we need to get outta here.. Thank you."

On more than a few times, she's actually told them, after the first warning, "Sir, turn it off now. Please and Thank You."

But it takes a lot to get her fired up like that... its understandable.

Every MINUTE an aircraft is on the ground, aside from their alotted time, can be from $50/minute up to the thousands of dollars per minute.

Underneath it all, the cabin crew is required to get the plane in the air in the time they've got, if not less.

The simplest delay costs the airline more than catering. Multiply that by every flight an airline runs per day, and you've got one hefty bill!

Think of it as your cell phone bill... you're alotted - and pay for - a certain amount of minutes. You stay in that limit, you're cool. One minute off, and you've got a lot of over-use bills.

Luckily, I have rollover - but airlines arent that lucky.


Michael said...

I travel a lot and I have a Treo. Now, I'm happy to turn it "off" when requested but I do have a problem with the concept at a basic level. Items like Treos have an off button but that just turns the screen off. The device is still using power and is still, technically, on, just sans screen illumination. What's the big deal with that? (Yes, I always shut down the transmission/phone feature while in flight but that's a separate issue.)

Fly Girl said...

Michael: While I appreciate your concern about the concept at a basic level, for right now, at least, it really doesn't matter.

The requirement is that all electronic equipment must be turned off. Not just turning the screen off, but everything with a power on/off button needs to be totally shut off. It's the power usage that's the issue, not the screen illumnation. This applies to ALL electronic equipment (not just phones/PDAs), and is based on the idea that there is a possibility that electronic power could interfere with aircraft navigational aids on the ground.

Whether this is true is subject of a more vigorous debate that I want to get into.

At a flight attendant basic level, what matters is that it is currently a FAR (Federal Air Regulation) that they must be turned off. That, it turn, means we must make sure that we are in compliance.

Failure to do so puts our job at risk. I like most of my passengers, and can appreciate the need to keep in touch. However, I am not willing to lose my job for someone's phone call.

Technology always is running way ahead of the federal regs, so we may see this changed at some point. Till then. . . it's just the way it is.

Astroprof said...

Basically this is a safety issue. Many devices (cell phones, laptops, etc) emit some EM radiation that can affect other equipment. If you want proof, then hold your cell phone near your computer (especially if the computer speakers are on), or turn on a laptop near your TV.

Now, some things don't transmit, such as flash mp3 players (iPods with hard drives do). However, you still aren't supposed to have your mp3 player going while taking off because it would interfere with your hearing the flight attendants screaming for you to hold on as the plane slides off the runway.

Astroprof said...

That is hold your phone next to the computer and make a call!

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is it is an F.A.R! ... you are required to turn off the darn thing! You are not as important as you think you are get over it! The world will not stop just because your phone is turned off! It is such an easy thing to do but most adults act like little brats when it comes to these gadgets!

"omis" said...

I just went through this last night at the end of a 12 hour day with a man and his Blackberry.

While passengers may question the necessity of such a rule, the place to get the rule changed is through your Congressional representatives and the FAA, not the flight attendent when they're asking you to comply with regulations onboard the aircraft.

It's also an issue of basic courtesy to the crewmember trying to do their job. Unfortunately, if I've learned anything in this job, it's that courtesy is largely gone from this sociey, at least once society passes through TSA screening.