Can we look past this ridiculous debate about cellphones on planes? Can we ignore, for a moment, the breathless opinion polls, the pompous declarations by airlines that they’d never allow wireless chatter in their cabins, and the heated discussions you’ve read in your favorite travel blog?
Mobile phones on commercial flights, already on their way to becoming a reality in the rest of the civilized world, will eventually come to the United States. It matters not that 59% of Americans in a recent Quinnipiac University poll declared they’re against it. Since when is the interior of an aircraft — where good etiquette remains in short supply — a yak-free zone like a library or church?
But keep looking, my friends. What else isn’t allowed on a commercial flight that should be? Conventional wisdom says we should permit fewer things on a plane, not more.
Perhaps we’re having the wrong debate. Many air travelers suggest there’s more that should be permitted — much more.
Bottled water. “I think they should allow you to bring your own factory-sealed water bottles through a TSA screening area,” says Theresa Kropp, a bookkeeper from Lakewood, Colo. “It’s so ridiculous that we have to buy water from the shops after we go through security.”
Truth is, the TSA kind of stopped enforcing its own liquid and gels rule years ago. I accidentally brought a large cup of yogurt in my carry-on bag on a recent flight, and I routinely hear from readers who manage to sneak water and soft drinks through security. The European Union is reportedly testing a liquid scanner that would allow passengers to carry drinks through its checkpoints, but it’s unlikely the TSA will officially ease its liquid restrictions stateside anytime soon.
Pets. While some animals are allowed in the main cabin, many are not, forcing air travelers to leave their beloved cats, dogs and birds at home. “I should be able to bring my parrot in his carrier,” says Elise Negrin, an administrative assistant from West Palm Beach, Fla. “He’s better behaved than many children.”
Well, here’s some good news, at least for affluent animal owners: Pet travel fees are one of those still-unexploited areas for airline surcharges. For example, US Airways allows a small domestic dog, cat or bird per passenger for $125 each way. But if it can figure out how to extract more, what’s to stop an airline from loosening the size and weight restrictions? Now, if something could be done about those naughty kids.
Knives. “Why don’t we allow pocket knives?” asks Tim Pylant, an engineer from La Grange, Texas “They’re no more dangerous than a ballpoint pen unless it folds back on your hand and cuts you.” Good point. The interior of an aircraft is filled with objects that can be more dangerous than a pocket knife, including pens, knitting needles and cutlery. Why single out small knives?
The TSA continues to prohibit knives in carry-on luggage except for plastic or round-bladed butter knives. Never mind that in other parts of the world, pocket knives are absolutely fine and are correctly not considered a threat to aviation safety. Oddly, the TSA last year announced it would permit knives on board. That is, until flight attendants’ unions, consumer advocates and law enforcement officials raised objections to the proposed rule change, claiming the knives would make air travel less safe. There is no evidence it would, and I’m willing to bet pocket knives will be allowed again someday.
We already allow things that probably shouldn’t be allowed, and we don’t permit things that should, all of which brings us to the point of this exercise. I’m as annoyed as the next passenger when the teenager next to me fires up Grand Theft Auto on his iPad and goes on a virtual killing spree. Or when the creepy guy across the aisle from my daughter watches an R-rated movie on his PC. But good manners can’t be regulated by banning tablets, computers or badly behaved kids — any more than allowing bottled water, pocket knives or more pets on an aircraft will make the in-flight experience less safe.
The answer isn’t to legislate our in-flight manners, but to deepen passengers’ collective sense of responsibility. It’s a simple, “do unto others” sensibility so lacking on today’s aircraft.
Perhaps that’s a good place to start the real discussion.
What else isn’t allowed on a plane?
The Transportation Security Administration has a long list of other items on the “no fly” list. Items that can’t be brought through security screening in your carry-on include:
– Scissors with blades longer than 4 inches
– Golf clubs
– Pool cues
– Drills and drill bits
– Firearm replicas
Source: Transportation Security Administration