Skype on the Airplane: Chat But No Voice

danyorkblatherontrain2008-08-21I’m constantly amazed at how some mobile phone users insist on having their cell phone conversation take priority over social niceties such as paying attention to the cashier at a store checkout, yakking out loud in an airport (or doctor’s) waiting room, or worse still, due to the implicit safety issue, holding the phone on the shoulder while trying to drive with your head sideways. Dan York got to listen to one side of a few conversations during his train trip home from New York yesterday. Basically I consider these people to be inconsiderate and rude.

I also find that over 85% of my Skype activity involves chat; it’s unobtrusive, relatively private with respect to people around you and provides a simple, effective and much less annoying means of communicating with remote work colleagues and friends.

So it’s no surprise that AirCell, who is installing Internet access on several U.S. airlines’ aircraft, is allowing passengers to chat but not talk during flight. I have to go along with their excuse for not allowing voice: “the consideration for passengers who want peace and quiet”. My hope is that we never see in-flight (cellular or VoIP) phone use allowed.

However, Andy reports on an experience where Phweet may provide a path for voice conversations using a Flash player. American Airlines passenger and Laptop Magazine reporter Joanna Stern, with whom Andy completed the “in-flight” Phweet call, also comments in her very detailed log of her AirCell in-flight Internet experience:

I couldn’t agree more. I was getting stares right and left in the 5 minutes I was talking to Andy and I don’t blame the passengers of American Airlines at all. Granted I was talking really loudly without a headset, but loud talkers on a plane (and in general) are annoying. The poor girl next to me was trying to sleep. Other than the call, I haven’t bothered her once. Though, she thinks I am a total geek.

On the other hand she was chatting with Aircell CEO Jack Blumenstein via Skype throughout the flight.

As for the the restriction on VoIP he says, “Fundamentally it is a reaction to widespread passenger aversion to the idea of many people talking loudly on flights (as we’ve all often experienced before take-off or while landing).”

So will AirCell figure out a way to avoid VoIP over Flash without cutting off all otherwise acceptable Flash traffic?

(And, as for those “Skyphones” that we used to see on aircraft – at some exorbitant cost of several dollars per minute – they got little use and calls were quite short. In the year I flew over 150,000 kilometers on Air Canada I used them once due to a rerouted landing caused by last minute weather conditions at the destination airport.)

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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