Southwest Passenger Gets Cell Phone Service, $500 Fine

Posted May 15, 2008 by Heather Gilbert

Cell_phone Usually the person sitting next to you is annoying because they’re grubbing for the armrest the whole time.  What if instead they were on their cell phone for two-thirds of the flight? Annoying?  Unsafe?  Or completely understandable?

On Monday morning a Southwest Airlines passenger was ticketed for using his cell phone during a flight from Austin to Dallas.  According to reports, this passenger had forgotten to turn his phone off, and subsequently received a message that his father was in dire health.  Apparently his father’s heart had stopped, and the cardiac team that left the message asked for an immediate call back.  At this point, during the flight’s descent into Dallas, Joe David Jones, 50, called the team back and refused to end his call when asked to do so by flight attendants.  He was allegedly on the phone for roughly 20 minutes.  The flight was met by police at Love Field and Mr. Jones was fined for disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500.

Readers of the Austin American-Statesman seem outraged.  The comments ranged from calling Mr. Jones a “sociopath” to suggesting he be “fined to the max” or even kept “in Dallas where he belongs.”  The outrage seems to stem from readers believing that the lives of other passengers were in danger due to interference with the flight's navigation system caused by the cell phone.  Being that the European Union recently decided to permit cell phone usage on planes, I’m not entirely sure that this interference claim is true anymore.  But then again, I don’t work for the FAA.   Or Southwest Airlines. 

Tell us what you think, should cell phone restrictions be lifted for “emergency” situations?


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Reader Comments

Not sure if it's true, but I was told that the cell phone restriction has nothing to do with "jamming the equipment" and everything to do with making sure people are listening to the pilot and flight attendants. If it were me I wouldn't have hung up the phone either.

Posted on May 15, 2008 at 03:03 PM by Chris

What did we do before cell phones? We waited till we landed. Until this restriction is lifted, it is still a rule. And there are consequences to breaking the rules. Could this man do anything for his father from the seat of an airplane other than annoy other passengers and flight attendants? They were doing there jobs, he should be fined.

Posted on May 15, 2008 at 04:51 PM by Candy

This is a tough situation. One on hand, it's tough to be mad at someone for being concerned for their father. On the other hand, permitting cell phone use for emergency situations only leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Also, I think the argument about "jamming the equipment" doesn't apply. My biggest concern about permitting cell phone use is the annoyance factor, especially on long-haul flights.

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 09:55 PM by Kevin

Cell phones should not be allowed untill the craft has touched down because everyone will LIE and say its an emergency just to chat

Posted on May 22, 2008 at 10:16 PM by j.o.

I say that people should bad Southwest for turning the passenger in. If my father was on his death bed, I too would have stayed on the call. Until his fine is payed by Southwest or dropped by the local police, I will not fly SWA.

Posted on June 03, 2008 at 04:39 PM by Roger

dude, if his dads heart stopped, i think he should at least be able to check on his health status. how would you like it if you got off from a flight, turned on your cell, and got a missed call about an hour ago, called, and found out it was the hospital saying your loved one died?

Posted on June 23, 2008 at 02:21 PM by devlin caldwell

my question is this .what can anyone do about any emergency at 30000 feet .i think nothing what do you think no cells mean no cells

Posted on August 26, 2008 at 09:19 PM by johnny

So I heard last night that the cell phone guy just got arrested for drunk driving. The story gets better. A few months ago he crashed a scooter driving home drunk from a bar. LMAO

Posted on April 10, 2009 at 10:01 AM by West Lake

Sounds like he had an emotional decision to make and really didn't care about the consequences. It's a hard one to judge.

Posted on May 29, 2009 at 12:23 AM by Ajlouny

If my heart had stopped, I would like the decision maker to be someone that cares about me. If I were in trouble, I would be grateful for a person with the wherewithal to take dramatic action on my behalf.

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 05:07 PM by rose

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