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AFA Testifies Before U.S. House Committee on Maintaining Cell Phone Ban on Airplanes

Date: July 14, 2005

Washington, D.C - Patricia A. Friend, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, testified today before the United States House Aviation Subcommittee on the issue of allowing the use of cellular telephones and other wireless communications devices on commercial aircraft. Cell Phones on Commercial Aircraft – A Nuisance or Necessity examined the public safety, national security, and social implications of the FCC's proposal to reverse the long-standing regulation on the use of wireless devices aboard commercial aircraft.

"AFA categorically rejects the notion that cell phone use on aircraft is a necessity," said Friend.  "It is our position that in far too many operational scenarios, cell phone use could be far worse than a mere nuisance: It could have catastrophic effects on aviation safety and security."

In previously released comments to the FCC, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) raised concerns that the use of in-flight communications by terrorists and other criminals could easily facilitate and coordinate planned attacks.  The DOJ also called for an analysis of the potential effects that in-flight communications would have on public safety and national security.

In December 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would effectively allow the use of cellular phones and wireless communications devices on aircraft equipped with new types of technology.  The new technology would allow passengers to use wireless devices without generating interference with ground-based cellular networks or aircraft communications and navigation equipment.  As a result of the NPRM, over 7,800 written comments from the public, industry and government agencies have been submitted to the FCC.  The vast majority strongly favors keeping the ban on in-flight cell phone use.  This finding is consistent with a national poll of airline passengers which found that 63 percent of air travelers want to keep the cell phone restriction in place.

AFA has also garnered support from the wireless telecommunications industry.  "We believe there is a time and place for wireless phone conversations, and seldom does that include the confines of an airplane flight, " wrote Cingular Executive Vice President Paul Roth in a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from the Federal Aviation Administration, FCC, DOJ, Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, Association of Corporate Travel Executives, and Qualcomm, Inc.

75 Years of Safety & Service: 60 Years of Unity This year marks the 75th anniversary of the flight attendant profession and the 60th anniversary of the Association of Flight Attendants.  More than 46,000 flight attendants, join together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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