I got in trouble at the airport the other day. As we approached the security area, the Transportation Security Administration agent said we had to remove all of our outer garments. So, I took off my pants. I mean, it is an OUTER garment, isn't it? It's not UNDERwear! What seemed to be most offensive wasn't that I had dropped trou, but rather that I had on Disney underwear (I was feeling a little Goofy that day). …

OK, I'm kidding, but the TSA agents do say that, and if we're really supposed to listen to them, we're obligated to follow their instructions also. However, this is only one of several things that have made traveling a chore these days.

This one is true: I passed through Dulles security and looked for a chair to sit on to put my shoes back on. However, TSA agents had taken all the chairs! At least Dulles has those chairs (usually) available. At some other airports, you have to walk barefoot or in socks for quite a ways to find a place to sit.

I was speaking with an airline attendant the other day. She said the biggest change in flying these days, brought on by rock bottom fares, is that folks unaccustomed to flying procedures are now flying and causing difficulties.

For example, why is it that when folks get out of their seat on the plane, they feel obligated to use brute force to pull back on the seat in front of them? If you're the unlucky one in the forward seat and trying to sleep, you feel like the plane is coming apart. Or, why do some folks feel they have to bathe in their cologne or perfume before they board the plane? My wife is awfully suspicious when I come home smelling like Channel No. 5. And, why do people in the back of the plane feel the absolute need to jump out of their seats and haul down their overhead luggage the moment the plane hits the gate and the seat belt sign is turned off? It's not like they're getting off the plane any faster than I am, and I can't tell you have many times I've been conked on the head by luggage being brought down.

By now, you're asking what this has to do with wireless or mobile radio technology. My current concern (as I sit in the Atlanta airport writing this) is the proposal to permit cellular telephone use on airplanes. As an industry, we are so good at solving technical problems that we now have numerous proposals (and options) for delivery of cell phone service on the plane. However, solving one technical problem has created a whole series of logistical and customer issues.

I'm struggling to understand why I would want the same people who can't keep their conversations below a scream on the ground to be able to shout “can you hear me now” for the three hours we're on the plane together. I travel often, and e-mails and phones are a big part of my work life, but I can assure you they can wait. I'm told that the surcharges that will be levied will minimize use by the casual conversationalist, but I'm not convinced. If that were the case, there wouldn't be so many competing proposals to enable the service. I believe that it will be a source of promotion and competition amongst the airlines, and prices will go down. Please, let me relax on the plane.

Now, I have a far different opinion on Internet access on the aircraft. Being able to send and receive e-mails and do Web-based work would be tremendous if reasonably priced. Computer use generally doesn't disturb other passengers and can make one feel less anxious that some drama back at the office is being ignored. In fact, there's little that you can't do via e-mail that absolutely requires a telephone, and the current — and very expensive — telephone service on airplanes takes care of that.

Now, if I can only get the person in front of me to put his seat forward so that I can actually open my laptop.


Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio, Internet and entertainment industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at atilles@srgpe.com.