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.
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.
Second, Wi-Fi "phone" calls aren't being allowed (so far). These are technically called "Voice over Internet" phone calls, and typically require a headset and free software (like Skype). So far, these are not allowed -- and more and more folks are asking, why not?
Finally, there's the, uh ... porn ... issue.
Flight attendants have gone on record as saying it should be banned from all laptops, but there's no law against it at the moment. I suppose fliers can and do flip through racy Web sites and use their various devices to view movies their mothers wouldn't approve of, although frankly, I haven't noticed this. I do think if everyone just calms down and uses common sense, this will never really be much of an issue. Of course if it is, we can always send these folks to a separate seating area -- that's right, a "special" area just for porn perusers.
Not so long ago, I saw a comment from a cell phone company executive, who was not happy about efforts to stop cell and Internet use on our airlines. He was getting a bit worked up and finally asked what were they going to ban next, alcohol? Well, nothing's impossible (wonder if he's forgotten about that little interlude known as "Prohibition," or that on some planes, your Scotch is going to cost you $8 a pop), but I think the time is ripe for cells to join Wi-Fi, and most of us will be fine with paying for these "must-haves" of the modern world.
Now, if you'll excuse, me, I just want to make sure I haven't misplaced my noise-cancelling headphones.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.