Would travelers be willing to pay extra to sit in a "Quiet Zone" if cell phone calls are permitted in flight? According to a new poll by Airfarewatchdog.com, which tracks fares and fees, many would.
Of the 3,400 travelers asked if they'd pay a fee for a seat in a quiet zone, 53% said yes because they wouldn't "want to hear non-stop chatter" during a flight. The rest said they wouldn't pay a fee and "just grin and bear it."
The Federal Communications Commission is collecting public comment on lifting a 1991 ban on in-flight cell phone use, which had been adopted to prevent interference with ground-based communications. There is no evidence now that cell phones harm the aircraft's navigation systems.
Airlines have been introducing new fees for everything from boarding early to choosing seats in recent years. They generate millions of dollars in fees each year.
George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com, said quiet zones could be another potential money-maker for them.
But he also says that the proposal has so many opponents that airlines may have to ban in-flight cell phone calling even if it comes legal.
"I think that so few people think that in-flight mobile phoning is a good idea that airlines will prohibit or otherwise make in-flight phone calls unviable," he says.
Last month, Delta CEO Richard Anderson wrote in a memo to employeesthat his airline would not allow in-flight voice calls even if regulators permit it.
Hobica points out that there was a time when airlines did allow phone calls on board. GTE Airfones were available on many flights.
"However, the calls were so expensive that no one used the devices," he says.