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U.S. Leans Toward Barring In-Flight Phone Calls

August 4, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

There has been controversy surrounding the use of cellphone calls on airplanes for years now and it finally looks the U.S. Government is about to get closer to its final word – and it does appear that it will be a resounding, “NO!”  What makes the decision even more complicated is the number of agencies involved in making the decision, with some in favor of allowing in-flight calling and others saying it should be banned and some that are not sure.  Not to mention that some of those arguing are governmental agencies, some are the airlines, and still others are special interest groups.

The real concern seems to be that in-flight voice calls could be a disruptive force during a flight, as they already relaxed rules that now allow gate-to-gate texting and other data usage.  If you haven’t noticed, people can be rude while talking on their mobile phones – totally ignoring you or rudely speaking while sitting right next to you. It those kind of instances that the airlines are worried about – will you even pay attention to the flight attendants once on your phone?Most of the airlines would like the decision to be left up to them, although most seem to favor the ban on in-flight calls, but there are other airlines that want the say so because they want the control so that they can offer it as an added customer convenience on their flights – perhaps allowing only business or first class the privilege.

Jeffrey Shane, general counsel for the International Air Transport Association, and a former senior Transportation Department policymaker says, “Airlines aren’t clamoring to allow mobile phone use during flight, and some have already said they’d prohibit it on their own flights.” Back in December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had actually proposed overturning the original 20-year ban barring in-flight cellphone usage, saying that they no longer believe it was a concern.  While the FCC has yet to issue any formal rule change, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) decision would override any FCC ruling.

In February, the DOT requested both public and industry comments as to the use of cellphones for in-flight calls, although Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had already disclosed their opposition to them – he believes the majority of flight crews and the passengers are against in-flight calls.  The Airlines contend that the DOT is overstepping its authority, but the DOT said it could ban in-flight calls based on consumer protection grounds – it is up to the DOT to provide “safe and adequate” service to protect flyers and to protect fliers from “unfair and deceptive practices” by the airlines. The DOT spokesperson said that it will continue to listen to comments and will make its final decision in February. Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know if you are for or against in-flight phone calls and WHY…as always, we would love to hear from you.