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Opponents of allowing cellphone calls on planes gain powerful ally

If you're against letting airline passengers talk on cellphones, you've gained a powerful ally.

The Global Business Travel Assn., a trade group for the world's business travelers, submitted its opposition last week to a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to lift a ban on voice calls on planes.

The group, which represents about 6,000 travel managers, called onboard calls "detrimental to business travelers." The association even quoted folk singer Pete Seeger, who borrowed heavily from the book of Ecclesiastes when he wrote "there is a time to keep silence and a time to speak."

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation has already received hundreds of comments in opposition to in-flight cellphone calls, business travelers carry extra influence.

In 2012, business travel was responsible for $491 billion in spending, or 3% of U.S. gross domestic product, according to a new study by the travel association.

The business travel group released its report on the effect of business travel on the same day that the federal government closed its 30-day period for accepting comments on the cellphone ban.

The Department of Transportation collected 1,752 comments. Based on a survey of the comments, the business travel group agrees with a majority of air travelers who hate the idea of turning an airplane cabin into a telephone booth.

"No please, no," an anonymous traveler said in a comment to the agency. "Adding voice calls to the ever shrinking confines of a commercial airline would be like sending passengers to hell with gasoline underpants."

United Airlines to install 500 device-charging stations at airports

Although cellphone calls are still banned on planes, the airline industry has come to accept that nearly every passenger now packs an electronic device that occasionally needs recharging.

United Airlines, the nation's second-largest carrier, announced last week that it is installing nearly 500 charging stations at its gate areas. Each station has six 110-volt power outlets and two USB ports.

The airline said the charging stations would be installed at Chicago O'Hare International Airport by the end of March, followed by its hubs in Los Angeles, Houston and Newark, N.J., and at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. Stations also will be added at LaGuardia Airport in New York and Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank got into the act last week by completing the installation of nine charging stations in terminals A and B. The charging stations are attached to the back of chairs and countertops. Each station has 12 USB ports and 12 plug-in outlets.

"We had some outlets before but they were not in mind for passengers," airport spokesman Victor Gill said. "They were near the ground for maintenance workers to run vacuum cleaners and stuff."

The airport got the outlets installed at no cost under an agreement with an airport advertiser, Alliance Airport Advertising, the same company that arranged the airport's free wireless Internet with sponsorship from local television station KABC-TV Channel 7.

In-room hotel amenities cheapest in Denver

Order a club sandwich from hotel room service in Denver and you will spend an average of nearly $12. Order that same sandwich in Los Angeles and you will be out about $17.

That was one of the findings in a study by the travel website TripAdvisor, in an attempt to find out which cities have the highest costs for in-room hotel extras.

To conduct the study, the website collected prices for a club sandwich, the dry cleaning of one shirt and several mini-bar accessories from hotels in 62 cities, including 15 in the U.S.

Las Vegas was found to have the priciest in-room amenities, at an average of $68. Denver was the least expensive at $41. Los Angeles ranked the fourth most expensive city at nearly $61.

The most expensive international city was Helsinki, Finland, where the average hotel amenities bill came to nearly $89 — that includes $20 to dry-clean a shirt and a whopping $38 for a club sandwich.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Twitter: @hugomartin

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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