Still Safe From Cell Phone Abusers on Planes--for Now

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Though the FCC has just okayed high-speed wireless Ineternet access on commercial jets, they still hven't voted on whether to allow cell phone us in flight, a subject that polarized air travelers. Some are thrilled; others are filled with dread.

Though the FCC has just okayed high-speed wireless Internet access on commercial jets, they still haven’t voted on whether to allow cell phone use in flight, a subject that has polarized air travelers. Some are thrilled; others are filled with dread.

“Air travel is stressful enough,” says Philadelphia area resident and frequent flyer Jeanne Fitzpatrick. “Can you imagine waking up over the Atlantic Ocean to the sound of ‘Jingle Bells’ coming over someone’s cell phone? Actually, if the FCC okays cell phones on planes, you’ll probably never get to sleep with all that chatting going on.”

According to Barbara Pachter, co-author with Susan Magee of the new book, “The Jerk with the Cell Phone: A Survival Guide for the Rest of Us” ($9.95, paperback, Marlowe & Co.), “It’s good that we have more time before we have to encounter cell phones and cell phone jerks on airplanes.” Pachter, who is an etiquette trainer and author of numerous etiquette books, says that we need the time to teach people how to use their phones politely. “It’s not the cell phone that is the problem,” she says. “It’s how people use them that can drive other people crazy.”

Yet with over 172 million wireless subscribers currently in the US, the use of cell phones has exploded in our society and it provides a lot of opportunity for misuse.

The key, says Pachter, is for travelers to realize that their cell phone use can disturb others—whether on or off a plane. “The biggest problem with cell phone jerks,” she says, “is that they have zero awareness of how their behavior is bothering other people. Cell phone users need to actively remember to speak in a quiet conversational voice and to put their phones on vibrate. These two simple measures would make a huge difference.”

Other tips for cell phone users who travel: No multitasking. “Don’t hold up a line because you are talking on the phone and to the ticket agent,” Pachter advises. “No bumping into other travelers because you are walking down the aisle, talking on the phone and juggling suitcases.”

Cell phones are here to stay and over time, as with any new technology that helps us to communicate, there's a learning curve as people learn how to use the technology politely. But until then, as one disgruntled airline passenger emailed Pachter: “Give them their emails, give them their laptop plug ins, but for heavens sake, no phones please.”

Barbara Pachter is an author, speaker, trainer and coach specializing in business communications, business etiquette, and assertiveness issues. Her client list features major corporations and organizations worldwide, including NASA, Pfizer Inc., DaimlerChrysler, Ernst & Young, and the University of Michigan.

For a review copy of "The Jerk with the Cell Phone: A Survival Guide for the Rest of Us" contact Blanca Olivery: 646-375-2571.

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