Potential safety hazards â€œThere are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices and cell phones give off,â€ the FAA said in a 2009 statement.
The FAA allows passengers to turn on most portable electronic devices, excluding cell phones, once the plane reaches 10,000 feet. At that altitude, it is the airlineâ€™s decision whether to allow the use of devices that are not specifically restricted.
But critics of the ban say that cell phones pose no safety risk to planes.
â€œI donâ€™t think anyone has said itâ€™s unsafe. They have not been asked to say it is safe,â€ said Biersack.
The FAA has not specifically said cell phones are dangerous to planes. But Boeing recommends â€œprohibiting the use of devices that intentionally transmit electromagnetic signals, such as cell phones, during all phases of flight.â€
Several governments, including the European Union, have approved in_flight cell phone use in their air space.
The EU approved the practice in 2008, and several carriers including Ryanair and bmi, which is part of Lufthansa, have tested or installed the instruments that make cell phone calls possible from planes.
Some experts say US cell phone bans have more to do with ensuring quiet, peaceful flights than they do with safety.
Terry Trippler, a travel expert at Rulestoknow, said that unfettered cell phone use during flights would be a major nuisance to passengers who prefer quiet.
â€œIf it were brought to a vote, it would be defeated. Cell phones would be banned permanently on airplanes,â€ he said. â€œThe airline is one place I think theyâ€™ll draw the line.â€
Some airlines now give passengers access to electronic communication during flights without allowing phone calls.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer Internet access via Aircellâ€™s Gogo service, which some see as a quiet alternative to cell phone chatter.
But Biersack says it is still unfair to ban cell phones based on their potential to annoy. He noted that in_flight calls would be infrequent and brief if only because of the high cost. Furthermore, airlines could determine when phone calls would be permitted and in which rows, he said.
Finally, he noted that there are plenty of other legal annoyances __ like crying babies or barking dogs __ on flights, so there is no point in singling out this one.â€œThereâ€™s always going to be a rude person,â€ he said. â€œBut the rest of us live by the norms. We know what to do.â€