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Should cell phone users on planes be treated like Metra quiet car passengers?

In June 2011, Metra trains implemented the "Quiet Car" program. Passengers are instructed to turn the ringers off on their cell phones, put any cell phone alerts on mute, move to the vestibule or another car to make an important call, use headphones with low volume and avoid talking with other passengers.

Visible through snowy tree branches, a late-afternoon Metra commuter train makes it way along the tracks.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Is it reasonable to believe that, if cell phones are ever allowed on planes, airlines could create the same rules for travelers who insist on talking on their phones?

The way loud passengers on the Quiet Cars are treated is about like you would treat someone at a library. Other passengers are encouraged to politely remind them which car they're on and a conductor can give the passenger a "Quiet Car" business card. Nothing more than that happens so unless guilt works, the passenger will just keep on talking.

But one issue with the Quiet Car is there are designated locations: second car from the cab car and the second car from the locomotive if the train has six or more cars; second car from the engine only for trains with five or fewer cars; third car from the south end on Metra Electric and no Quiet Car for trains with two cars.

The average size of an individual Metra car, according to Metra's customer Service reps, is 85 feet. The length of a plane varies. According to air manufacturer Airbus, the length of an A320 plane is 37.57 meters (123.26 feet). However, as all travelers know, just because a plane is bigger doesn't mean there's more traveling room. That just means it has the option to carry more people and luggage on it, which can lead to cramped quarters and being the middle person in a three seater.

So even if a plane tried to appease those who insist on cell phones on planes, there would be some particularly unhappy travelers.

AirAsia already moved children to a "quiet zone" at the back of the plane. The economy rows are for people who are ages 12 and up. This idea also gained support in the UK.

But if an adult can't even handle the idea of a Quiet Car on Metra, is it really possible that this traveler can behave himself while traveling for hours on a flight?

A Sun Times article op/ed article states that it's time to let passengers use their phones on flights. In the newspaper's opinion: "It’s much rarer now to run into new cellphone users who practically shout into the devices because they’re not convinced the people on the other end can hear them."

One may wonder has the editorial writer ever heard of prankster Greg Benson who decided to good-naturedly do something about screaming cell phone users. He'd sit next to travelers and pretend he was on the other end of the call.

But Sun Times user Wake Up posted an even more valid question: "I honestly don't see the need for any communication mid flight, aside from obviously emergencies...You cannot change the fact you're in flight and can do almost nothing in any situation from the air, so why add to it?"

Even for those with pteromerhanophobia‎ (fear of flying), Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests diaphragmatic breathing, flight simulators, education about flight takeoff and turbulence, and group therapy. But nothing about a cell phone.

For travelers who want to read, there are paper books and magazines. For travelers who want to watch movies or listen to music, that's allowed during the flight. So what exactly is on a cell phone that's so important that it can't wait until the flight lands just as Metra passengers wait until they reach their train stops?

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