Your Next Flight: 'Can You Hear Me Now?'

I am steamed. Smoke is coming out of my ears. And once again, it's because of the cost of air travel.

No, it's not the cost of an airline ticket. And I'm not talking about the extra $30 I have to shell out to check my bag, either.

I mean real money: like the $349 I paid for my "noise-cancelling" Bose headphones. But of course, I had to get them -- once I heard cell phones were starting to make their way into airline cabins.

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OK, maybe not in the U.S. Not yet, anyway. But Europe's Ryanair announced it will start testing cell phone use on its planes in just a few days. Other airlines are past the test stage: if you travel between Dubai and London on Emirates Airlines, you can chatter away on your cell all you like.

But -- surprise, surprise -- it is not free: cell phone users on Ryanair can expect to pay from $3 to $3.60 a minute for calls, and about 75 cents per text message. At these prices, you're better off taking a nap.

But, chat we will. Some of us, anyway. Sure, polls generally show folks like cell phones on a plane as much as snakes on a plane, but when it comes to younger folks (the 18 to 34 years olds), nearly half of them said "yes" to cells.

Maybe because to them, it's nothing new. But then, phones on planes aren't all that novel. I'm sure most of us remember those old "built-into-your-seatback" Airfones (and its various rivals). They've been around for years, but by 2002, American Airlines announced it was ditching its AT&T version because people just weren't using them (maybe because you had to pay $3 to start the call, then an additional $7.60 plus tax, per minute. Ouch.)

Will the U.S. carriers eventually allow cells on planes? Yes, the lure of money will overwhelm common sense -- it is only a matter of time.

True, flight attendants don't like them, citing the possibility of "air rage," but that strikes me as just a bit far-fetched. At the moment, though, the FAA and the FCC are on the flight attendants' side and keep saying no to cells. But, change happens. And when/if cells get the OK, there I'll be in my middle seat with my Bose headphones on while my neighbors yak away, or are texting momentous messages like, "u r so nice 2 mt me @ bg clm."

Of course, we could always try "cell segregation" -- you know, have all the "cellies" seated together -- although I seem to recall I got into a bit of trouble in a previous column when a source suggested separate seating areas for children ... in the cargo bays.

Ahem. Moving along to the Internet.

Yes, that is coming: Delta, for one, says its entire domestic fleet will be Wi-Fi-ed in less than a year. Cost to you: about $10 on flights under three hours and about $13 on longer trips.

Sounds great right? But others close to the situation see three problems.

First, if you're sitting in coach, how on earth can you possibly use your laptop if the person in front of you decides to recline their seat (and they always do)? Well, there's always that handy/pesky gadget called the "Knee Defender" -- just attach it to your tray table, and you've immobilized the seat in front of you. Toss in a free Defender for every Wi-Fi user, and I think we're on to something.

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