The FCC is working towards solutions leading to the approved use of cell phones while an airplane is in-flight, something which has been illegal up to this point. While these solutions will not be immediate and you wont be able to use your own cell phone in the air, it does raise some questions mobile professionals will have to consider when traveling by air.
The first question that I have the greatest concern about is security and confidentiality. We are all aware that 9 times out of 10, when we are using a cell phone, we tend to talk louder and quite often become more animated while talking. How do you prevent the passenger sitting next to you from overhearing your phone conversation? What if that person happens to work for the competition?
This may seem to be a far-fetched and unreasonable situation to happen, but with the competitiveness of business today, even the smallest bit of information your competitor gains can be damaging.
In public most people do try to be discreet and perhaps move to a location where they can have more privacy but on an airplane that just isnt possible unless you favour the washroom for your new office space.
Companies who have mobile professionals who travel frequently by air should begin now to create cell phone policies that cover in-flight travel. It would be wise to create a list of topics which should not be discussed while in-flight and even a list of approved people who can be called while the traveler is flying.
Granted, enforcement of this could be very difficult but once a competitor or two beat your company to the punch, it may not be too difficult to rule out who has not complied with the policy.
In most cases, handling business details while in-flight isnt the best solution, youd be reacting not based on thought and consideration but spur-of-the-minute gut reaction, which isnt the best way to work.
Another consideration to be kept in mind with using cell phones while in-flight is the cost. Pricing hasnt even been contemplated nor has the method for which use will be billed. Controlling costs is always important to businesses and no matter if the company foots the bill or reimburses the business traveler, are these expenses going to be justified in the end?
Yet another scenario to picture and which for many, me included is the noise that will be generated from numerous cell phone users. At one time flights were a time to relax, regroup and perhaps do some light work as a way to pass time. Now imagine that you have people all around you talking on their cell phones closing deals, disagreeing strongly with co-workers or clients and just plain old being loud.
Is it really necessary to use a cell phone while you are traveling from Point A to Point B by air? If you cant do it legally now, and know that you cant impact any business situations, why would that be any different in the future when cell phone use will be allowed?
If an emergency arises, its not like you can jump out mid-flight to deal with it.
Common courtesy, a respect for confidentiality and security should be more important concerns for business travelers while in-flight.