Making Cell Phone Call Forces AirTran Flight Back to Terminal

7:13 PM, Nov 19, 2009   |    comments
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Nothing unusual late yesterday at the AirTran ticket counter at Hartsfield Jackson.

Thirteen passengers checked in for AirTran Flight 297 to Houston. Only one of them spoke English but most of them had cell phones.

Seventy-three passengers boarded the flight.

The cabin door closed and as the plane taxied for takeoff, one of the groups of 13 got on the cell phone.

An AirTran flight attendant spotted the passenger and insisted he get shut the phone off--a rule enforced by the FAA.

The attendant spoke English--the passenger did not.

His translator was sitting many rows back.

The caller stayed on the phone, so the flight attendant went to the Captain, who quickly turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal.

And here is where making a call on an airplane when you are not supposed to can get complicated.

The caller and his translator were asked to get off the airplane. They were followed by the other 11 people in the group--none of whom spoke English.

After trying to sort the whole thing out, the 11 people were told they could get back on, but not the caller and the translator.

When the 11 reboarded, 12 other passengers decided they didn't want to fly on the plane and they all got off.

Do passengers know the rules or abide by them

"I never turn it off. I leave it on all the time," said one passenger.

"You really don't now what the rules are as far as when you can and can't use it?" we asked.

"No--no idea," said another passenger.

The issue is radio interference,

Enforcement is strict.

But language barriers can signal a significant roadblock.

AirTran says it has joined with the FAA in investigating what happened.
No charges have been filed and nobody was detained.

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