Sunday, May 2, 2010

Phone App Designed to Empower Airline Passengers

On the same day new rules went into effect to protect the rights of airline passengers, passengers rights advocate Kate Hanni launched a new application to help passengers keep tabs on their flight.

Hanni, Executive Director of, said the app will empower passengers by providing real time data on the status of their flights via GPS.

But there's just one problem. You aren't allowed to turn on your cell phone while in flight. The app is also available for PCs, but unless you flight happens to offer WiFi, you won't have a way to access the information when you need it most.

"It is essential that airline passengers are empowered with the latest applications and in-flight technology to ensure that the airlines are accountable and full compliance with the new 3 Hour Tarmac Rule, going into effect today at the Department of Transportation," said Hanni. "Passengers in the U.S. should be allowed to avail themselves of in-flight connectivity and technology to capture, record, and transmit information vital to the enforcement of their new rights."

With the new application, available on , the GPS component of the iPhone will be able to pinpoint a passenger's location and the passenger will confirm location.

The passenger will be able to input their airline and flight information into a centralized database and update their status in terms of delays or cancellations while in flight. Passengers also will be able to take photos, video and audio recordings and attach them to the record in real time.

The House of Representatives version of the FAA bill, passed last year, contains language that would ban the use of cellular communications and VoIP on commercial aircraft in U.S. airspace. The recently passed Senate version of the FAA legislation contains no ban. Currently, 20 international air carriers, flying to 72 nations around the world are equipped with in-flight cellular service -- with over 2.3 million passengers a month flying on aircraft with the service. Hanni thinks the U.S. should follow their example.

"The enforcement and protection of rights of people around the globe have become increasingly dependent upon the transmission of data and images in real time thanks to cellular technology," Hanni said. "Rather than ban it outright, Congress should allow the FAA and the FCC to evaluate the use of in-flight voice service and connectivity as a valuable tool for passengers in the U.S. taking into account potential benefits to consumers and the real world experience of its deployment throughout the rest of the world."

Since 2005, the FAA has been considering easing the cell phone ban. The agency told Congress five years ago that each airline would have to demonstrate conclusively that every model cell phone would present no interference on every model aircraft in use.

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