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Man Answers Cell Phone On Plane, Refuses To Get Off, Raises Ethical Questions

It was a life and death decision. An Austin man forgot to turn off his phone before a flight. As the plane he was on approached Dallas, it rang. He answered it. His father's heart had stopped and medical professionals were seeking end-of-life options. With his father's life literally in his hands, he refused to get off the phone when approached by Southwest Airlines staff -- despite that it's not permitted. What should he have done?
It was a life and death decision. An Austin man forgot to turn off his phone before a flight. As the plane he was on approached Dallas, it rang. He answered it. His father's heart had stopped and medical professionals were seeking end-of-life options. With his father's life literally in his hands, he refused to get off the phone when approached by Southwest Airlines staff -- despite that it's not permitted. What should he have done?If it were my father, I would have taken the call and told the airline staff to @*&$# off, as Joe David Jones, 50, president of Austin environmental technology company Skyonic Corp., apparently did.

According to The Statesman, Mr. Jones was ticketed with a disorderly conduct charge, a class C misdemeanor that carries up to a $500 fine, by Dallas police on arrival at Love field for failing to get off the phone. In a statement from an associate of Mr. Jones', "He expresses regret for the inconvenience that it caused the airline and its passengers, but he felt compelled because of the life and death nature of it to make that call." Mr. Jones was on the phone for about 20 minutes.

I don't know how you feel about your loved ones, but my dad's life is worth $500 to me. That's a no-brainer.

The most glaring issue is, did Mr. Jones jeopardize the safety of the plane and its passengers at any time? Even though the FCC and FAA have shelved the idea of in-flight calling, we know it works. European regulators have allowed it. If it is not done correctly, however, it can wreak havoc with the wireless networks on the ground (imagine the processing power needed to follow a cell phone signal at 500 miles per hour). But cell phones haven't been proven to interfere with airplane guidance systems or other equipment.

If using a cell phone on a plane were indeed unsafe, then Mr. Jones' behavior -- risking the lives of those on board the plane -- is questionable. Much as some would like to think otherwise, the lives of 150+ people outweigh the life of one man. While I would feel empathy for Mr. Jones in that situation, it would not be fair of him to put others as risk.

But the plane didn't crash. No one was hurt, though people were probably annoyed. What do you think? Was he right or wrong to answer the phone? Should emergency calls be permitted? Where do we draw the line?