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.