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Off-Balance Sheet: Cellphones at 35,000 ft.


Whether people like it or not, in-flight cellphone use is going to become a reality.


Relax, it's only money. Here in the 'Ville we like to keep things smart, but we also love to laugh. All work and no know how it goes. With that in mind we give you The "Off-Balance Sheet," a place where Minyans can experience humorous takes on the world of finance, personal stories from our Professors and Minyans and all the other stuff that makes life worth living. So take a break from the flickering ticks and dive in.

Dubai-based Emirates Airlines began allowing cellphone use on flights in January. Other airlines throughout Europe and the Middle East are following suit, with cellphone service being offered aboard planes beginning later this year.

An Emirates Airbus A380, loaded with passengers on their cellphones saying things like, "Where are you?" "What are you doing?" and "Can you guess where I am?"

According to today's Wall Street Journal, AirCell, a closely-held Colorado company that provides communications for private jets, is expanding its network of ground towers and has engaged in talks with multiple airlines to facilitate cellphone service on commercial aircraft. The company paid $31.3 million at an FCC auction last year to take over a radio frequency that will allow Internet and cellphone communications.

61% of business travelers oppose the idea of allowing cellphones in the sky, according to a global survey conducted by travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

A young traveler letting a cellphone-user know how she feels about his conversation

But Chris McGinnis, editor of Expedia Travel Trendwatch, says, "Whether people like it or not, in-flight cellphone use is going to become a reality."

What does this mean for executives on the road, some of whom routinely log upward of 200,000 air miles a year?

For starters, it means that while you're preparing your presentation to the board of directors en route to the biggest meeting of the year, you'll soon get to savor this guy's blow-by-blow recap to a fraternity brother of just how drunk he got last night.

An example of the universally-reviled cellphone user

However, you don't have to suffer in silence. A clause quietly slipped into the FCC's proposed in-flight cellphone use guidelines states:

"Any passenger subjected to a cellphone conversation aboard a commercial flight of two hours or more that exceeds commonly accepted thresholds of banality, insignificance, or appropriate personal detail (i.e. "You'll never guess who I hooked up with last night, bro!"), shall be permitted to inflict an commensurate level of bodily harm upon the phone user."

Alas, there are certain moves and holds that will not be permitted:

  • No fish-hooking

  • No eye-gouging

  • No ear-boxing

FCC/FAA sanctioned strikes and takedowns include the following:

The "Goodnight, Gracie"

The "You didn't want to have kids, anyway"

The "Oh my freaking god-you have GOT to be kidding me"

For more on the subject, I turned to Minyanville's resident cellphone authority, Kevin Depew.

Kevin, what happened?

I don't know…I was talking on my cellphone in a restaurant, when all of a sudden-bam!!! I don't remember anything after that.

Well, now that this has happened to you, what are your thoughts about the FAA allowing cellphones to be used on commercial flights?

Airlines will be attracted to the idea because they'll share revenue with…what's the name of the company again?


Right, AirCell. Sorry, my short-term memory is a little…shaky. Anyway, the airlines will share revenues with AirCell, so that'll help the already-struggling…oh, man-I'm blanking again.

The already-struggling…airlines?

Yeah, yeah. Thanks. It'll help the already-struggling airlines tap into a new profit source. Ryanair (RYAAY), out of Dublin, has already signed a deal to set up cell service on all 200 of its planes in 3Q '07. This is 2007, right?


So, I guess we'll see what happens. If it works overseas, it'll almost certainly make its way over here. All I know is, I'm not bringing my cellphone on an airplane anytime soon. Actually, ever. Okay, are we done yet? The morphine's kicking in, and I'm pretty…oh, what's the word?


That's it-sleepy. Goodnight, Jason. I mean, Jordan. I mean, Jacob. I mean…wait, who are you?

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