U.S. government moves closer to formally banning in-flight cellphone calls

“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.


    1. oh i don’t know, loudmouths just might be the quadrafecta to go along with crappy, expensive food, inadequate legroom, and uncomfortable seats that result from cutting down on padding so they can squeeze in more seats.

      what more could we possibly want ?

      1. The only way to change that is by driving or using alternative transportation. Consumers should do everything to fight the greedy unreasonable airlines that make boatloads of money and cut back on human basics.

        1. Unfortunately, the airlines aren’t quite making boatloads of money. Vast majority are actually raking up losses. The combined effect of skyrocketing kerosene pricing and economic downturn (bringing significantly less business travel, which is the kind that makes profit) has caused quite a few airlines to fold, and the few that are left standing are trying to trim costs wherever they can in order to remain competitive. The airline deregulation of late 80s was a boon for consumers, as it created cut-throat competitive field, which resulted in a significant drop of airline pricing to the point that you could buy a round-trip coach ticket from NY to LA for less money than for a bus (never mind the train)!

          Until global oil prices come down to the levels of late 90s, (which will never happen) we won’t see better service (or cheaper prices). When people are faced with a choice between low price (with no food, tight seats and no legroom) and high price (with free food, free checked luggage, comfortable seats and decent legroom), vast majority will pick cheap over comfortable.

        2. Precisely. I can put up with being a bit cramped for a 4 hour flight across the country rather than a 3 day trip driving it. Not only is the cost to fly the same or less (especially adding in hotel costs), but taking the time off work to travel each direction also isn’t possible if you want to spend any time at your destination.

        3. For me, first class is well beyond reach; business class is quite a bit more reasonable.

          And let us not forget, if you drive, chances are significantly greater that something could happen to you than if you fly on a commercial airline.

        4. Well, I’d be perfectly happy to cross the Atlantic via Zeppellin, not so sure about commercial shipping, too slow.
          And there’s always the risk of a pesky iceberg.

    2. If voice calls are allowed on some airlines, then it will become a very important discriminator to me. I will avoid any airline that allows voice calls. The planes are already noisy enough without adding incessant cell phone yakking. Seriously, consider how often you are annoyed by cell phone yakking while sitting around in airports. Then consider how much more frustrating it will be to be tethered to an uncomfortable seat for several hours while listening to people scream into their phones. No thanks.

      1. If someone is quietly muttering into their phone, as people usually quietly mutter to their neighbors, no problem for me. But if we get to the “Starbucks Yell”, then I think I’ll be participating in their conversation in an equally loud voice.

        1. But here’s the thing….as others have said, airplanes are already noisy, therefore the person talking will almost HAVE to yell in order to be heard over the engines, etc. Or at least, they’ll *think* they have to yell…and will constantly be saying “can you repeat that, sorry I can’t hear you…I’m in a really loud plane.”

          I’m 10,000% in favor of keeping the ban. I love my iPhone, but people need to learn that it IS possible to disconnect for 5 or even 10 hours, and really….your world won’t stop turning!!

  1. Ah it only affects that country’s airspace and that’s easily noted by the hot air. Not an issue for the free world, nothing important to see here.

  2. unlike people talking face to face many people SHOUT into their phones because of bad connections, background noise etc. They are a disturbing presence when crammed together. Banning calls good idea.

    1. That may be it. I have a fellow employee here who almost screams into the phone – only on personal calls, which are at least mostly on her cell phone. (Don’t get me started on how much company time she spends on personal business!) I wouldn’t want to have her sitting beside me on a plane talking to anyone!

  3. So if they ban in-flight cell phone calls what does that mean for using the “sky phones?” honest question.

    It seems like none ever complained and said anything about people using and talking on the “sky phones” which have been aboard planes for decades now.

    1. That’s because they’re so freakin’ expensive that hardly anyone ever actually uses them.

      Most newer planes seem to have ditched them, anyway…couldn’t tell you the last time I actually saw them on a plane.

  4. What about soft phones going OTT on plane WiFi? Those apps on devices like an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Laptop Macs dial regular phones via MVNOs and others on WiFi.

    if the rules just state cell phones a lawyerfest will commence. There are so many ways to communicate by voice over the internet the rules will need to be written very carefully.

  5. Hang tight as in car tech will also be minimized to audio as it has always been. Enough with trying to social engineering ourselves to somehow think that we can operate motor vehicle with all sorts of distractions.

  6. I have no problem with voice conversations being banned by individual airlines. But the Government is overstepping itself regulating this kind of minutia.

    1. Really? You think so?

      You are ok with 150 companies all having a different rule? Or change their rule on a whim?

      Let’s say you booked a flight requiring 2 connections. And different carriers: Delta from Atlanta to Dallas, US Air from Dallas to LA, SW Airlines from LA to Phoenix (if you wanted to go this way). And each of these carriers had a different rule. Would you be confused?

      Let’s say your office booked you on one carrier this week, but your flight is full, so next week you were booked on an alternate carrier, and got used to the fact that you could join your 8:00am meeting from your puddle jumper to Charlotte. But this week you can’t because you are on an alternate carrier.

      Perhaps that’s ok with you. I guess for some it is. And it could definitely be worked around. So…

      The question is do we, as consumers, demand consistency do service in this area?

      I am certain no one would be saying anything if the article had said, “leaning toward ‘yes'” then we would all be FOR the regulation. Regardless of our understanding or lack-thereof of the considerations being reviews by the FAA.

      1. The federal government should step in here so companies don’t have different rules, you won’t be confused, and you won’t be inconvenienced? No, those are not good enough reasons.

        Do we demand consistent service? Sure, directly from the companies and not expecting the government to nanny us.

        I do not get this line of thinking at all. This is not the job of the federal government.

        1. Is this one of those things that is too mundane to argue the point? Probably. Do I think the FAA should be regulating this particular issue? No.

          Do I think they “nanny” us?

          Have you ever heard if the term ‘buyer beware’? Have you ever bought something that you wish you had researched just a bit more before you bought it?

          I think there is a place for We The People to step in and assist us with ensuring that the product we buy is of the best quality, especially in an industry that I am handing my life to. Or the life of my children.

          We, in our busy lives, don’t have time to research every product we buy. How many if those items you out in your grocery cart last week have you researched to ensure they are safe? Your groceries are not safe because of competition, they are safe because of FDA regulation and oversight by you, me, and We The People.

          The FAA is not trying to nanny you. They are trying to ensure that safety is not compromised by excessive use of cell phones in planes. I don’t know all the issues. You don’t know all the issues. So, we have appointed an agency to do the study. Let them do it.

          What I don’t get is the line of thinking that regulation is bad and the government is all evil. Makes mistakes? Sure. Inefficient? Sure. It’s agencies are run by humans, not robots.

          Regulation is despised by corporations specifically because it requires them to spend money in places they would otherwise not and to ensure public safety. And this notion to despise regulation is propagated through our media by corporations.

          Do not be a corporation, be a person.

          If you were inconvenienced at the social security office or the DMV, ask why. Try to change it.

          Good travels.

        2. I didn’t say to get rid of the FAA and that flying safely was not important. Not sure how you read that into it.

          Safety standards? Yes.

          Telling us not to talk on the phone for consistency, confusion, or convenience? No.

          Regulation is despised by anyone who does not want to be regulated. If you don’t despise it then you must like to be controlled. No good travels await you.

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