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Thin Air

19:00 AM -- The war to keep cell phones from being used during commercial flights is officially on.

The Communications Workers of America, the nation's largest communications and media union, has started a letter writing campaign to help discourage the FCC and Congress from allowing the use of phones while flying.

They're not always perfectly articulate. Consider this point they make in an email newsletter: "We have no data to suggest that cell phone use doesn't interfere with aircraft navigation systems."

Huh?

But the CWA has some good arguments: "The mixture of thin air, cramped quarters, frayed nerves and alcohol consumption already pushes passengers to the limit. Add multiple, high volume cell phone conversations and the recipe for disaster is complete."

By removing pillows and fostering cell phone use, it's obvious that someone somewhere wants airline customers to stay away (see Creature Comforts). Telecom carriers are taking similar measures with their automated customer service lines, incomprehensible pricing schemes, and bills that don't make sense.

What airlines and telecom carriers both should remember is that the only way to keep the public truly happy is to provide a means of escape for each annoyance you impose.

The cell phone issue is thorny, but you can find a compromise. I think airlines can allow cell phone usage, but they have to include access to noise-canceling headphones and buy me two free drinks per flight.

For telecom carriers, give me an equal number of wireless or long-distance minutes free for each minute I waste on hold. And, to make billing easy, switch to per-usage billing for voice, video, and data services. The more we consume, the more we pay -- it should be that simple.

Free drinks from the phone company wouldn't hurt either.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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