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Friday, October 24, 2014         

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Group tars in-flight phone calls

By McClatchy News Services

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If you're against letting airline passengers talk on cellphones, you've gained a powerful ally.

The Global Business Travel Association, a trade group for the world's business travelers, submitted its opposition last week to a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to lift a ban on voice calls on planes.

The group, which represents about 6,000 travel managers, called onboard calls "detrimental to business travelers." The association even quoted folk singer Pete Seeger, who borrowed heavily from the book of Ecclesiastes when he wrote "there is a time to keep silence and a time to speak."

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation has already received hundreds of comments in opposition to in-flight cellphone calls, business travelers carry extra influence.

In 2012, business travel was responsible for $491 billion in spending, or 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, according to the association.

United to install gadget chargers

Although cellphone calls are still banned on planes, the airline industry has come to accept that nearly every passenger now packs an electronic device that occasionally needs recharging.

United Airlines, the nation's second-largest carrier, announced last week that it is installing nearly 500 charging stations at its gate areas. Each station has six 110-volt power outlets and two USB ports.

The airline said the charging stations were due to be installed at Chicago O'Hare International Airport by the end of March, followed by its hubs in Los Angeles, Houston and Newark, N.J., and at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Stations also will be added at La Guardia Airport in New York and Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans.

The Department of Transportation collected 1,752 comments. Based on a survey of the comments, the business travel group agrees with a majority of air travelers who hate the idea of turning an airplane cabin into a telephone booth.

"No please, no," an anonymous traveler said in a comment to the agency. "Adding voice calls to the ever shrinking confines of a commercial airline would be like sending passengers to hell with gasoline underpants."

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times






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