When cellphone use is allowed on planes (e.g. on foreign airlines), people get on the phone.  But passengers seem to want airlines to ban use.  How are these things consistent?  Some simple theories:

1. Negative externality 1: You can’t control who calls you, e.g. your boss giving you yet more work.  If cellphone use is not allowed, no-one can call you.

2. Behavioral Economics story: You have a self-control problem.  You know you’ll use the phone excessively as you’re a phone addict.  Banning use helps you commit not to use it.

3. Prisoner’s Dilemma (Negative Externality 2): You want to use your phone on a flight but you don’t want your neighbour to use it.  But this is not possible so you know everyone will use their phone.  Then, you prefer that no-one be allowed to use a cellphone on flight, even if it prevents you from using your phone.  A possible solution: Some of the revenue generated can be returned to the passengers to compensate them for the externality they suffer.  Only way this will happen is if it gives one airline a competitive advantage over another.

Of course, with airlines in financial trouble, selling snacks on planes, Wi-Fi is coming somewhere to a plane near you whether you like it or not as someone will pay for it as they like it.