“The U.S. government is getting closer to its final word on whether to allow cellphone calls on airplanes,” Doug Cameron reports for The Wall Street Journal. “And that word appears to be ‘no.’ Airlines, meanwhile, are pressing for the final decision to be left to them. The Department of Transportation plans to pursue the next step in what could lead to a formal ban on in-flight calls, the agency’s general counsel Kathryn Thomson, said in a speech last week at the International Aviation Club in Washington, according to people present.”

“Regulators are focused primarily on the disruptive effects of voice calls rather than texting or other data use, having last year loosened restrictions that now allow airline passengers to use electronic devices for these purposes from gate to gate,” Cameron reports. “In February, the DOT requested public and industry comments on cellphone use. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had already flagged the agency’s opposition to in-flight calls and said he believes passengers and flight-crew members are overwhelmingly against in-flight phone use.”

Airlines contend the Transportation Department is overstepping its authority, and should let carriers decide whether to offer cellphone service, which would require some technology investment, as a way to differentiate themselves,” Cameron reports. “‘Airlines aren’t clamoring to allow mobile-phone use during flight, and some have already said they’d prohibit it on their own flights,’ said Jeffrey Shane, general counsel for the International Air Transport Association, and a former senior Transportation Department policy maker. But Mr. Shane said some carriers may want to explore passenger-friendly ways to introduce calls, such as in-flight phone booths or quiet zones.”

Read more in the full article here.