Flying as much as I have lately, I’ve gone from being jaded by the flight attendants’ PA announcement routine, to getting a little irritated at the lack of variation and creativity. One change they’ve made, though, over the past couple of months is to specifically warn against using “anything that transmits a signal”. This got me thinking about all of the laptops on board, mine included, that have WiFi capability.
If you’ve ever fished around for a signal in a coffee shop or an airport, you’ll know that laptop WiFi cards not only receive, they transmit - you’ll see all of the laptops within range listed on your search result. The stricture against transmission, curiously, omits mention of laptops. Stopping mine would be relatively easy, since it’s a plug-in card and I could simply yank it out. Most new laptops, however, come with the devices built in. If the airlines were to get serious about having you disconnect them, the preflight address by the flight attendants would become a lot more complicated:
Insert the tab firmly into the buckle and pull the seatbelt tight across your lap.
Once we’re airborne, certain approved electronic devices may be used. Laptops may be used if wireless communication devices are disabled. If you’re using Windows XP, click Start/Control Panel/Network Connections. If you do not see “Network Connections”, switch Control Panel to Classic view mode. Once you have the Network Connections dialogue open, find your wireless device, right-click it and left-click “Disable”. If you’re using Windows 2000 or NT Workstation 4.0….(and on and on)…If you’re using a MacIntosh, you’re too technically inept to safely disable your wireless device and you must keep your laptop stowed for the duration of the flight. You can find the number for Microsoft 24-hour technical support on the instruction sheet in the seat pocket in front of you. Sneak your cell phone out while we’re busy with that obnoxious drunk in 15A and give them a call if you need assistance.
At the end of this, of course, your departure has been delayed at least a half hour, but the state board of whatever profession you’re in will accept your application for CPE credit.