Yapping seatmates a hurdle in FCC plan for inflight cellphone calls

“U.S. telecommunications regulators are poised to follow aviation officials in permitting wider use of smartphones by airline passengers — and not just for e-mail, spreadsheets and Angry Birds,” Todd Shields, Olga Kharif and Alan Levin report for Bloomberg News.

“Voice calls via mobile phones would be allowed aboard planes under a Federal Communications Commission proposal announced yesterday. Even if the move wins approval, it would still need buy-in from airlines and passengers, who may be less tolerant of seatmates’ conversations than of Internet surfing,” Shields, Kharif and Levin report. “‘On the plane, I don’t think people will appreciate their neighbor yapping for hours and hours,’ Chetan Sharma, an independent wireless analyst based in Issaquah, Washington, said in an interview.”

“FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal would end a ban put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground,” Shields, Kharif and Levin report. “The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents makers of smartphones and tablet computers, praised the FCC proposal as a ‘pro-consumer’ move. Even so, the Arlington, Virginia-based group said in a statement that any rules change “should not negate general common courtesies… Engaging in phone conversations in flight may prove technically feasible but many may find it socially undesirable,’ the CEA said.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
U.S. FCC to propose allowing cellphone use on airplanes – November 21, 2013


  1. I would find it undesirable! I love making new friends albeit temporarily on flights especially long haul.
    To have to listen to someone receiving or issuing instructions or even gossiping about the flight details would be deranging. It could encourage people to drink too much or risk going berserker!

  2. Do what I do – bring db fortified yap noise stifling ear plugs with you on the plane. But really if someone sits next to you and talks on their phone the entire flight that idiot has got a serious problem with basic etiquette. Of course courtesy, consideration and politeness are no longer prominent in our society with the classless loudmouthed boors you’re more likely to find.

    1. Personally, I look forward to participating in many interesting conversations and telling my seatmate what I think of their latest business ideas, boyfriend, sister-in-law’s behavior and much more.

    2. Many folks talk extra loud on their cell phones because the volume for the cell phone is inadequate. The sad part is that the person on the other end who hears them practically yelling will compensate by talking more quietly and the loud behaviour is reinforced.

      Cell phones have AGC (automatic gain control) that will make quiet voices sound louder and loud voices quieter. I wish more people would learn about this and speak quietly into their phone.

  3. “…but many may find it socially undesirable.”

    People have to have manners and common sense in order for that statement to work.

    So, no, it will be hell on flights.

  4. It’s bad enough when people do this on the bus. Seems like one reason to love all the intercontinental trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific routes. No cell phone towers in the ocean, if this is even capable of working. Just think how much you hate the guy next to you talking on one of those expensive airline phones. Now imagine him going all Maury on his baby mama for hours. “Sir, we insist you take all calls on the wing of the airplane for better reception. It’s quieter out there.”

  5. What a horrible idea. It’s bad enough to hear people talking before the airplane pushes back from the gate. Especially the “Joe Business Deal” guy.

    For many people airplanes are uncomfortable, scary, claustrophobic, etc.. Adding a new element of annoying is really going to shake things up.

    Everyone knows you’re on a plane and out of contact for a little while. The world is not going to end if you can’t obsessively check in on everything by voice. Seems there’s going to be plenty of other ways for you to micromanage, brag, obsess, talk about the new make believe disease you or your kids have, etc., via text, email, chat, and so on.

    And how is it going to work when there’s two or three people packed like sardines next to each other yapping their heads off? It’s pretty difficult for two people to talk simultaneously on the phone in the same room, let alone touching elbows.

    I bet this is going to end badly… It’ll be like Bush just opened the flood gates on credit again. How’d that turn out?

    1. How about “Phone and Kid free” sections — I’d willingly pay extra for that! Last summer I was on a transoceanic flight where I had sprung for first class; there was a family by me that had 4 kids from teenager to toddler all in first. It wasn’t a quiet flight. Having to listen to that the teenager blabber on a phone all the way could have put me over the edge…

  6. Has anybody asked the mobile carriers? Cells require proximity to cell towers. At the rate jets fly you’d be switching cells perhaps faster than the equipment can keep up with. And there has to be a lot of dead zones. Maybe you can use Skype or some other internet communication via the onboard wi-fi, but I don’t even know how planes keep that connection now.

  7. TSA has already made flying a dreadful experience. Now we will also have to listen to idiots yap on the phone about nothing.

    But I have a solution. If an airline allows cell phone use in the cabin, then all passengers should be issued a club when they enter the aircraft so they can beat the crap out of any asshole who talks on their cell phone for more than a minute or two, Who needs government regulation. This approach will be much more effective.

  8. It finally turns out that the way this will work is like wifi: the aircraft will have a picocell/tower in the body to receive/retransmit the signals to the ground base station. No direct contact from phones to ground cell towers, as we thought at first.

    Had me going for a while too. So, Delta has said ‘heck no, our pax don’t want it, we aren’t doing it’. Hopefully other airlines will listen to people’s complaints and also not spend the money to add hardware to planes.

    Also: I read one article that said the call rate would be that of international roaming. That will cut down on the casual calls pretty quick!

  9. People ARE going to get hurt. Who gets sued?? The FCC? The Airline?? The individuals?? ALL of the above??

    IF this decision is made to ALLOW CELL CALLS, besides not having to tolerate stinky feet, this is this FIRST definitive issue to FORCE me never to fly again….

    AMF !!!

  10. Concept:

    Clean out one of the airplane bathrooms and designate it ‘The Yap Room’. As many people as can fit in it are allowed, but the door must remain closed. People can phone yap for the whole flight in there. But they cannot phone yap ever among the other passengers. Oh sure, they’re going to complain that they can’t hear themselves think, let along hear who’s on the phone. Tough luck. It’s The Yap Room and you’re stuck there if you’re going to chatter on the phone on a plane. BWAHAHAHA! 😈

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