US regulators aim to keep the ban on in-flight phone calls

In 2013, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed ending the federal ban and leaving it to airlines to decide whether to allow travellers to make mobile phone calls during flights.

Pai elucidated that forgetting about it for all time will be a triumph for Americans the nation over who, similar to me, value a snapshot of calm at 30,000 feet.

If sitting next to a passenger on an airplane who is talking and laughing loudly on the phone sounds like a travel nightmare, this will surely make you smile: A new proposal aims to ensure that airplanes remain voice call-free zones.

The rule was introduced in December 2013 by then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a democrat who resigned in January and said current laws were "outdated and restrictive". The FCC is making sure this no-phone refuge remains, by ditching its long-in-the-works plan to lift its ban on in-flight cellphone calls.

Wheeler apparently didn't even think about how much allowing calls would piss off frequent flyers, as the proposal talked about the (seemingly true) advanced of technology that made calls safer.

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Just to make it clear, you may use your cell phones for any other purposes you wish, the restrictions have only been imposed on the calling part.

The FCC adopted the ban in 1991 because of concerns that numerous cellphones on flights could jam ground-based relay stations as planes flew across the country. Most of those opposing stated that relaxing the ban could lead to passengers interfering with one another with noisy phone calls. AeroMobile Communications stated that typically, 5% of passengers on flights bound for the USA make calls, which last for two minutes, on average.

While there may not be any technical interference caused by cell phone usage, public opinion on the possibility of making calls on planes is not favorable. Many consumers can already use Wi-Fi services onboard aircraft for these purposes. In a testimony before Congress, Wheeler said that the Federal Aviation Administration would work on crafting a rule to address voice calls on planes.

Indeed, more than 8,000 people weighed into the Department of Transportation over the past few years, a lot of them in opposition of allowing voice calls on planes.

In this latest call for public comment, passengers' responses were cut from same cloth and an AirlineRatings review underscored the strong reaction against in-flight voice calls.

  • Desiree Holland