ATA Airline Tries to Have Customer Arrested for Using iPhone in Airplane Mode

Consumerist was given a disturbing story by a reader who flew ATA to Hawaii and was accosted by an over-zealous flight attendant who didn't understand the concept of "Airplane Mode" on the iPhone, despite the fact that similar features have been available in phones and other gadgets for years. Now some of you will say "Why didn't this guy just turn off his iPhone and stop causing problems?" There's a time and a place for every battle, sure, but check out what a cock this attendant was after the flight landed, when they tried to have the customer arrested.
Then the police take me off the flight and to a waiting area. I explain everything that happened, they go and talk to the male flight attendant. I see him waving his arms and looking very angry and animated. Why is he so hell bent on getting me in trouble ? So then the police come back over to me and explain that he said this particular plane is not shielded for ANY electronic equipment at all, so even a phone in airplane mode could cause problems. OK, so why didn't he tell me that at all in flight, all he said was i was breaking FAA rules, and also why was everyone else allowed to use their laptops, mp3 players, etc ?? The police officer looked confused, and said he would be right back. He talked to the guy again and then came back and said that the airplane is not shielded for ONLY phones in airplane mode. Come on, really ? he has changed his story 3 times, and all he said in flight was FAA this and FAA that, nothing about this specific plane. The police sorta laughed and said wait one second, they went and talked to him, he got really upset and left. Then they came back to me and said I was free to go.
It's frivolous, vindictive bullshit and ATA should issue the guy a public apology. It's straight-up ignorance on the part of the flight attendants. I'm sure it's a frustrating job to be a flight attendant these days since every single passenger is full of loathing for the entire airline industry, but they can't be bothered to learn about airplane mode after at least a decade of it entering common use? Or, god forbid, trust that the passenger might know what he's talking about? I guarantee that at least half the laptops open and used on those planes are spitting out tons of Wi-Fi and other radio signals. ATA Tries To Have You Arrested For Using Your iPhone In "Airplane Mode" [Consumerist]
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23 Responses to ATA Airline Tries to Have Customer Arrested for Using iPhone in Airplane Mode

  1. Anonymous says:

    I fly light aircraft and will mirror comment #8 — my cell phone (and yolk-mounted GPS, computers and everything else) have never affected the GPS, VOR or any other instrument. ATA is slowly being bought out by Southwest, who unfortunately won’t let you use a GPS on board anymore — they were the last to do so — but do pretty well otherwise, so things should improve (they couldn’t get worse).

  2. Theresa says:

    I am a commercial pilot (that is the name of my certificate, by no means am I an airline pilot), so I fly small aircraft fairly often. Whenever I fly, I make sure that my phone stays turned off because depending on the plane and the cell phone company, whenever I have an incoming call or text, it creates static over the radios. I’ve never known it to mess up my instruments at all, but I’d imagine that if I had a plane full of people who were all on their cell phones at once, it might screw something up.

    In this case I think that the flight attendant should have been more considerate and actually explained why it couldn’t just be in “airplane mode,” but on the same hand, the customer should have turned off his phone when asked to.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think the point is that this person was trying to use an iPhone in flight mode, meaning they wanted to essentially turn their iPhone into an iPod touch for the flight. It wasnt just about “fighting the man” to have a mobile on for no real reason but resisting authority.

    Since I imagine people that have iPhones don’t also carry iPods (why would you?), this would be equivalent to being told that you can’t use your iPod for the duration of the flight.

    Imagine you sit down on the plane, the start of a NINE hour flight (at least), and you’re told you cant use the main piece of entertainment (music, movies, games, organizer) for 9 hours just because you’re dealing with an ingorant employee on a power trip.

    You’d have the Air Mall magazine memorized for sure, but I’m pretty sure I know how upset most of us would be at that point.

  4. Tubman says:

    While it’s extremely doubtful that cellphones and wifi can have any real impact on a plane’s systems, the real absurdity here is that a supposed security measure is reliant upon the least effective screening method imaginable: what stewards can see.

    If the same philosophy were applied to preventing guns being carried on to aircraft, you’d only get stopped if security saw you with a gun in your hand, although they’d let you through if you said the safety was on.

    If airlines want to carry on with this policy they should have to pay for the installation of cellphone and wifi detectors on their fleets.

  5. chef says:

    They’ve had announcements reiterating the “no mobile phones” thing here, as well as a mention about no flight authority recognizing claims that in-flight modes don’t have any effect in a article here:

    Here, I’d say it’s asshats on both sides. Both people were trying to show dominance over each other when they both had clear signs that they were being retarded. Kind of an idiot pissing match in my opinion.

  6. Jamshid666 says:

    I’ve never done it intentionally, but there have been several times when I got off the plane at my destination and pulled my phone out to turn it on, only to realize that I didn’t turn it off before the flight. Obviously my phone couldn’t have caused that much interference as I’m not dead yet.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s the same with petrol stations, it’s been proven many times that mobile phones do not cause explosions and yet the jumped up little bully boys at the pump counters always yell at customers through the tannoys.

    That said, with the airline ruling, at least it stops us from having to sit next to some tiresome blowhard while he talks into his motorola wankr for three hours…

  8. monopole says:

    ATA, given a choice I’d rather take Aeroflot!

  9. Anonymous says:

    OK.They (airlines) ask that ALL electronic items be turned off during the take off and landing.I gringe because self agenda knuckle heads have a “I, my. me” self agenda and the rules can’t apply to them because………….

  10. Anonymous says:

    I actually accidentally left a cell phone on (I work for a company that uses many cell phones all the time) in my carry-on luggage and had no problems with any of the equipment.

  11. Anonymous says:

    OR you can stop being an asshat and just turn your damn phone off so the rest of us don’t have to put up with YOUR fight against da Man. I just want to take off and land on time. Is that so much to ask? And if there were some other measure to detect your cell phone, you asshats would be screaming invasion of privacy. Self righteous retards are a waste of time. That is how such a large collection of them ended up on BB.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Everyone has made some good points, including the comment that cellphone radiation does ‘jack fucking shit’ to planes; this certainly evidenced by the fact that cell masts are located near airports where planes land and take-off every day, if the radiation was an issue, this wouldn’t be the case.

    In addition to the comment that the ‘policy’ is designed to drive customers to the in-flight phone I have also read (I apologise for a lack of referencing) that the real issue is that phones used in flight cause problems for the networks as the speed and hight of the plane cause the cell to pass through numerous mast areas forcing a higher load onto the network due to constant switching from mast to mast and attempts to connect to more than one mast. I doubt airlines will change their policy however, they will consider it a case of being more safe than sorry. It might be wise to invest in some interpersonal training for key staff however.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The cell phone rule (in my understanding) is not an FAA rule at all. They don’t even say (anymore) FAA they say REDERAL REGULATION. It seems to be a FCC rule. This relates to point of site to mulitple cell towers and the polling on the various circuits, etc.

    Since being given a valid reason, I tend to turn off my cell phone. Of course, a lot of ppl (including the attendants) think it’s a FAA thing. And then, they begin to make up reasons based on other regs they know and bullshit meters go into the extreme red category.

    Wikipedia has an article on this here.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I work on airplanes as a federally licensed mechanic and I am also a very frequent flier. The mechanics who test this very same equipment, the navigation and flight deck computers, all have and use cell phones, frequently during the actual tests. I NEVER, and I repeat NEVER, turn my cell phone off, often using it in those ten minutes before landing or after take off. Each and every flight I have been on has always landed at the correct airport.

    This whole issue is a bunch of crap.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Shhh… Don’t tell the terrorists! They will stop working on those nefarious water bottle bombs and move to cell phone interference weapons of plane destruction devices.

  16. mancide says:

    Haven’t there been studies that have shown phones in normal mode don’t pose any risk. And this whole “policy” was just made up to force people to pay the extortion rates for airplane phones?

    Obviously the whole thing is silly because other people were using electronics and not harassed, but does any electronic device actually pose a threat to an airplane? Doesn’t the airplane itself use electronic devices, so wouldn’t they run the risk of interference with other electronics on the plane if the plane wasn’t “shielded”?

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve worked on EMI testing on aircraft before. The most common problem is you get a little static in the radio (its a distinct signature, you may even hear it if you use an fm-transmitter in your car for satellite radio or an ipod) when the cell phone rings. However, I’ve seen it do ridiculous things like make an autopilot go on the fritz (though usually its just in passing). However, I think the rules are stupid, its no big deal to take common electronic devices and run emi tests on the aircraft to make sure its ok. Also, proximity heavily influences the likelihood of emi and passengers are sitting so far away from the avionics, I can’t imagine its a real problem.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The fact quite aside that cellphone radiation doesn’t do jack fucking shit to planes.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been threatened with ‘ending up on a list I don’t want to be on’ for taking pictures inside an airliner before.

    I told the (male, again) flight attendant not to be silly and kept right on taking my pictures. He got upset and stormed off.

    I must say, tho, that he apologized before we landed. Perhaps he’d taken my advice to heart.

  20. Anonymous says:

    isnt it FAA rules to “comply with any and all requests by flight attendants?”

  21. insomma says:

    I live in Italy and I have to travel frequently by train for work.

    Even though there is no risk of derailing a train by talking on a cellphone, a few moments after leaving each station, a recorded message announces in several languages to keep cellphones set to vibrate, and to limit conversations while aboard.

    Why? because it’s f*cking inconsiderate to force 100 other people to follow your conversation.

    The reality is that no one pays any attention to these requests, and most people feel absolutely intitled to speak for as long as they want – regardless of whether or not the conversation is urgent (usually it is not).

    Even if cellphones cause no harm to a plane’s electronic devices, they’re annoying.

    Perhaps airlines play up the “no, you’ll crash the plane” bit because it is friendlier than saying “no, because we know you’re a bunch of indignant assholes who would love nothing more than to test our patience by carrying on with a phone call while we try to communicate safety infomation or other announcements to our passengers”.

    And as for the super important business calls? If you are travelling for work, don’t your business partners realize that you are arriving…on…a…plane?

    I’ve had a disgruntled flight attendant or two in my day, but when you stop and consider the number of passengers these people must work with, who is more likely to turn out the cock?

    Just because you should be able to doesn’t mean you should.

  22. ThinkandDrive says:

    Indeed, what a (to use your turn of phase) ‘cock’.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I recently flew with Jetstar (local carrier here in Australia) and before we took off they asked everyone to turn off their phones or make sure it was in flight mode.

    So I guess there are some non ‘tard flight people around :)

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