Switch that one around. United had the better system, but they leased it. Continental owned their own system. Even though it is a bit older and a bit less user friendly. The new United decided to continue using Continental's system because it was owned instead of continuing to lease one. Why spend the money when you already own something similar.
The main difference between cell phones and WiFi is one uses a satellite on the plane to connect to satellites and one uses cell towers to connect to satellites. I know it doesn't seem like much of a difference, but it's enough to allow WiFi on airplanes.
As for interference, will it cause the airplane to flip over and do a nose dive? No. However, I can say that I sat in my flight deck while a pax placed a call (We were on the ground, parked at the gate, perfectly legal) I saw my course needle on my HSI sway a few degrees. It went from about a half dot off to a quarter dot off. As soon as the pax hung up, it stopped swaying. Could it have been an airplane taxiing between my aircraft and the VOR and had absolutely nothing to do with the guy on his phone? Possibly.
Not to mention anytime anyone has a Blackberry seated directly under/over my Comm antennae, I get the feedback in my headset.
As for distractions, I have witnessed a few times passengers seated in the exit rows being w
I have to say, irrelevant. Some airlines have been using handheld tablets for years, just not iPads. Get over it. I believe the ban is exactly for what Watch Dog said. I'd rather have a 3 lb. hardcover book come flying at my face than 2 lbs. of something that's half glass.
Ground stops are unpredictable. It's sucks, but it's true. Whenever I fly into ORD, whenever I get clearance, CD always says to call them when we are pushing back for a flow control time. Sometimes it's no big deal, 10-15 minutes. Other times it can be an hour. And it's never a set time. One hour could turn into two, or one hour could turn into 20 minutes. You just never know.
It's really not "cheaper" for an airline to keep you out on the tarmac. If you're sitting out there, the airline is burning extra fuel (not cheap) and paying overblock to the crew (not cheap). If you were scheduled in and no gate is available, then the plane sitting at your gate is also costing the airline money.
But, the big one, when you're an unexpected arrival (either a return to gate or a diversion) then there usually just is no gate. As soon as you leave a gate, someone else pulls in. In order to get you back to the gate right away, they have to make someone else late. That could cause a cascade effect and make a whole bunch of people late, causing the them to miss connections, and make the airline rebook them costing the airline even more money.
But, I get it. It's just easier to vilify airlines rather then trying to understand them.