This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.
Major U.S. air carriers flew 7.6 billion miles in 2014 with no fatalities, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The odds of dying in a plane crash today are reportedly as low as 11 million to one. The odds of getting into a shouting match on a plane, however, just went up.
That’s my studied conclusion after reading the Wall Street Journal’s reporting this morning on the increasing likelihood that U.S. aviation regulators will eventually allow airline passengers to make in-flight calls. The Journal is quick to point out that individual airlines can veto any such allowance, that a “substantial majority of individual commenters” have already (and no doubt vociferously) opposed the idea, and that the Association of Flight Attendants has called the notion “reckless.” (Right they are.)
Still, the mere possibility of a change in policy on this front ought to raise concerns—if not for reasons of etiquette and old-fashioned customer satisfaction, than for public health. That’s because, while flying is among the safest means of mass transportation today, it is also—increasingly—becoming one of the most stressful. Natasha Geiling at Smithsonian magazine offers a slew of eye-opening stats on why—from longer boarding times to the sheer loudness of the cabin. (Decibel levels by seats near the engine can reach 90, which can conceivably cause ear damage if sustained for eight hours or more.)
Now, imagine the guy in the seat next to you—the one who brought on the bratwurst and sauerkraut sandwich for a snack, the one who’s elbow is in your side and who keeps thinking your seatbelt is his—is on the phone with his cousin for an hour. Imagine the person in front of you—the one who tried to jam his oversize wheelie into the overhead bin for 20 minutes, the one whose seat was sent into full recline shortly after takeoff—is on an epic phone call with a work colleague. (The reception is bad—as bad as the WiFi connection usually is—and so he’s shouting to be heard.)
What’s your stress level now just thinking about that?
Well, should this happen to you midflight, one simple way to de-stress is to put on an eye mask and take a nap.
Oh wait—the passenger in 12D is on the phone with his broker.