Monday, May 12, 2008

Two Sides To Every Story

Well, this one has two sides, anyway. At first, it looked pretty cut-and-dried: Southwest Airlines called the cops on a passenger who refused to stop talking on his cell phone during a flight:
Dallas police met a Southwest Airlines plane at Dallas Love Field on Monday after flight staff reported that a passenger refused to stop using his mobile phone during the flight.

Joe David Jones, 50, was cited for disorderly conduct, Dallas police said.

The incident occurred during a Southwest flight from Austin to Dallas. “After multiple requests, the flight attendants were not successful in getting the passenger to get off the phone,” said Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King.

According to a Dallas police report, flight attendants had asked Mr. Jones to turn off his cell phone and he responded with, "Kiss my ---." When asked again, he stated, "Kiss my ---. Not happening," the report said.
This was the story as it was known when I read it this afternoon. But it was updated later in the afternoon, and, sure enough, there was more to the story than was originally reported:
Joe David Jones, 50, was on the phone with medical professionals where his father was being treated for a heart condition, police said.

Officials said Jones' father's heart had stopped and physicians needed direction on what course of action to take
Wow. That makes it a little different.

Granted, he shouldn't have used abusive language with the flight attendants...but who among us could say that they wouldn't do the same thing if they were in Jones' shoes?

And of course, there's this whole issue:
The Federal Aviation Administration bars use of mobile phones when planes are flying due to concerns about interference with the navigation system.
I wonder if that's really true, or is the FAA just being very, very cautious. I wouldn't want something horrible to happen to a family member while I was in the air, but I wouldn't want to possibly bring down an entire plane in the process of helping said family member. Talk about an uncomfortable position to be in...

I realize that, before long, this question will be moot; there are already phones (on more expensive airlines) that can take in-flight calls, and there's been work to make such calls more widely available. And while I really hope that every single person on the plane is never allowed to talk on the phone for the duration of a flight, I hope that there's some sort of provision in place for emergencies such as the one experienced by Jones today.

What would you do if you were in such a position?

UPDATE: One more thought, from a follow-up to the original story. Note this quote:
Beth Harbin, a Southwest spokeswoman, said that although the carrier sympathizes with Mr. Jones' situation, "it was a safety regulation that we're required to enforce, and we're simply not in a position to make exceptions."
Or were they? You've probably read before of my disgust with zero-tolerance policies; they allow people in authority to hide behind rules instead of making (possibly controversial) decisions. Even worse, it keeps people from having to think, and it makes it appear as if the rules are more important than the people themselves. (And by the way, callers to Ernie and Jay today--even those claiming to be pilots--were divided on whether or not a cellphone could actually bring down a plane.)

A happier father-son moment: A Utah man and his son graduated from an Ohio law school together this past weekend, and they may open a practice together back home.

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