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United: No in-flight video chat for you

Posted at 13 March 2010 14:10 CET by Jared Newman

Claiming security reasons, a United Airlines flight attendant ordered a passenger to cease video chat with his family over the plane’s in-air Wi-Fi.

Thing is, the passenger was John Battelle, one of the founders of Wired and a fairly well-known tech journalist and entrepreneur. He used his blog to rant about the situation — while still in the air.

“The flight attendant just showed me the United policy manual which prohibits “two way devices” from communicating with the ground,” Battelle wrote. “However, the PLANE HAS WIFI. To combat this, not unlike China, United and other airlines have blocked Skype and other known video chat offenders. Apparently, they missed Apple iChat. Oops.”

Video chat from the sky is not illegal. A Federal Aviation Administration fact sheet explains that many United States airlines choose to block video chat on their own. “This is not an FAA restriction; they are simply responding to the overwhelming majority of their customers, who prefer silent communications to the public nature of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) calls,” the memo says.

In other words, people don’t want to hear you blabbing away on video or voice chat in the middle of a flight. I’m inclined to agree. So while it was weird that the flight attendant channeled security reasons when telling Battelle to shut down (maybe the attendant just didn’t know the real reason), I have a hard time sympathizing with the passenger. Yes, it was cute that Battelle was tucking his kids into bed from the air, but not everyone wants to hear that.

In-flight Internet is great, and the more it catches on, the more important it is that people aren’t allowed to engage in long, lengthy video or voice conversations. Flying is already uncomfortable enough as it is.

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There are 5 comments

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 13 Mar 10 16:45
    It bad enough that you have to listen to people talk to anyone and everyone over the phone when you are eating so I agree he should have been told to turn it off.
    Resident lunatic
    Posted on: 13 Mar 10 17:14
      Why have it if you cannot use it then?
      MyCE Resident
      Posted on: 13 Mar 10 19:00
        You can use them but not in a small area like a plane where everyone on the plane will hear you. Just because you own something it does not mean you can use it anywhere you like. A lot of people own guns but they cannot have it or use it on a plane.
        MyCE Resident
        Posted on: 15 Mar 10 18:47
          BS. BS. BS. Phone calls are allowed on planes ! Last flight I took, the back of the seat in front of me had a freaking phone and a credit card swipe and it was encouraged to be used. Evey row had them.

          So its OK for me to phone and carry on a conversation on the phone but not over a WiFi ? That's BS !

          Its all about them not being able to charge you for it. God forbid you get a free long distance phone call out of them.

          And sorry everyone but an airplane is not your private space. You are not entitled to privacy on a plane unless you paid for a private room. People have the right to carry on conversations whether its online or with the person sitting next to them.
          MyCE Resident
          Posted on: 15 Mar 10 21:45
            Do you really want everyone and their mom yammering all flight long on airplanes? That would be a pretty miserable experience IMO. I'm glad that airlines ban video/VoIP voice chatting on flights.

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