Philosophy Case Study Paper on Mobile Phones on Airplanes

Mobile Phones on Airplanes


            Mobile phones and related wireless technology has become an integral part of day-to-day human lives. This is because of their effectiveness of exchanging information and they enable the users to remain connected with their families, friends and work associates in spite of the different geographical locations. The widespread use of mobile phones and other electronic devices to transfer data and information has made human beings use them continuously. However, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides regulations for mobile phones in airplanes citing their probability of interfering with the aircraft electronic system (FAA circular, 2006). In light of this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibits passengers from using their cell phones while on board to minimize the chance of any peril. As a result, the issue has raised a lot of debates, even in the senate, on whether passengers should be allowed to use electronic devices while on board since communication is very essential and communication barriers causes numerous adverse effects. The hypothesis of this paper is that the use of mobile phones while travelling by air is prone to safety issues and may interfere with the aircraft’s electronic system. Therefore, this paper explores this issue reviewing some of the case studies regarding the use of mobile phones on airplanes.

Case study review

            Walen, Chitwood and Shaver (2012) conducted a study on the use of cell phones on passenger aircraft and the resultant effects. According to the FAA, some aircrafts are equipped with an on-board cellular telephone base station, which allows the passengers to interact with their phones (FAA circular, 2006). However, this base station has to be licensed by national telecommunications authority and it is regulated to national boundaries. Therefore, Walen et al. (2012) conducted their research on an aircraft with a cellular base station and one without. Surprisingly, after reviewing the comments sheet only few passengers who approved the use of mobile phones saying that they had businesses that required a constant flow of information. Those who are against the idea said that they needed to relax away from their busy schedule while on board; hence, mobile phones were unnecessary. In addition, they argued that passengers who made calls on board usually made a lot of noise interfering with other people comfort. On safety matters, the study found out that no country had confirmed reports about cell phone negative impacts on flight safety. Interestingly, the French airplane association found out that only ten percent turn off their phones, even when the cellular base station was malfunctioned and nothing occurred. On the contrary, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warns passengers against ignoring the warnings that require them to switch off their phones as it could cause a plane crash. According to Walen et al, the United States of America has not licensed flight operators to install on-board cellular base station to avoid such risks.


The aggressive argument arises on whether it is advisable to allow the use of electronic devices on passenger aircraft has presented difficult approaches. Many people argue that safety restrictions should be upheld while others differ citing that the safety risk has not been confirmed.  The world is at a stage that everything is running on technology and any alteration causes people to incur losses. For instance, Wharton (2009) states that a business owner who is on a long cross country flight can miss an important deal because he or she cannot access any information. Similarly, an emergency can occur back at home and he is in a possibility to offer a solution but he cannot due to communication barriers. Another example of the usefulness of using mobile phones on an airplane is the mysterious loss of Malaysian plane MH370. According to the airline industry professionals, if the passengers used their phones while on-board some important information could have been retrieved. In support of allowing mobile phone usage in aircrafts, Senator Markey Edward requested the FCC to consider allowing passengers to access their messages and emails while on board (“Markey urges caution”, 2013). With the new technology in place, the commission can invent ways of allowing airplane passengers to interact with their electronic devices. However, the FCC position remains unmoved as it does not consider compromising the security of passengers on an issue that can be avoided. Human safety is a priority that should not be taken for granted and measures taken to protect an individual’s life should be observed with utmost respect (Bates, 2011). Consequently, cabin crews expressed concerns about health related issues associated with phone calls in the airplane (Walen et al., 2012). Based on the study by Walen, cabin crews were not happy with the behavior of passengers using mobile phones while on board citing that they usually interfered with their work.


The following are possible solutions that can be implemented to tackle the issue of operating mobile phones while on airplanes.

  1. The authorities can ban completely the  use of mobile phones by passengers while on-board
  2. Inventing new technology that allows users to only receive texts and emails to avoid distracting the cabin crew
  3.  Secluding one point in the plane that should be installed with cellular telephone base station. Since human beings have become independent on using mobile devices, using them in an airplane is inevitable.

Therefore, the best solution for flight connectivity is to focus on devising a system that will allow communication with mobile gadgets without interfering with the plane’s electronic system and without distracting others. This way, the system will allow continuous information reliance without posing a risk to the passenger. In conclusion, there are a few incidences that IATA has linked plane crash with the use of mobile phone; hence it is important to protect both the passenger’s safety and their right to information.


Bates, D. (10, June 2011). How just one mobile phone can make a plane crash. Daily mail.

FAA Advisory Circular 91.21-1B. (2006). Use of Portable Electronic Devices. Aboard Aircraft.

Markey urges caution, consultation on phone calls on airplanes. (2013). Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. Retrieved from

Walen, D., Chitwood, R. & Shaver, D. (2012). Study on the use of cell phones on passenger aircraft. Retrieved from:

Wharton, T. (2009, Dec 21). Should cell phones be allowed on airplanes?The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from