US May Ban In-flight Calls, But not Over Safety Concerns

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The FCC doesn't see any problem with travelers making cell phone calls on airplanes, but the U.S. Department of Transportation still plans to push for a ban on in-flight calls. Instead of citing safety concerns, the DOT wants to prohibit cell phone calls because they would be too disruptive to other passengers.

The Department of Transportation wants to officially ban in-flight cellphone callsThe Department of Transportation wants to officially ban in-flight cellphone calls

The DOT is currently putting together a "notice of proposed rule making," according to the Wall Street Journal, that will be presented in December. The proposal will outline the the DOT's reasoning behind why inflight calls should be banned and will be open for public comments until February 2015.

The FAA opened the door to gate-to-gate portable electronics use last year so travelers could use their iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and other devices during all flight phases from take off to landing. That approval didn't, however, include making or receiving phone calls, but in December the FCC said it didn't see any safety-related reasons to block travelers from doing so.

Airlines are opposed to the potential ban even though some already have their own rules prohibiting calls. Instead of a blanket ban, airlines want the flexibility to manage themselves how cellphones are used in flight and are considering options such as phone booth-like areas where calls could be made without disrupting other passengers.

Some airlines outside the U.S. allow in-flight calls, but currently stop their passengers from doing so after entering into the country's airspace.

The DOT isn't on board with the idea and said it would use consumer protection as a lever to force a ban. The DOT said it has the authority to push through a ban because it has been tasked with ensuring airlines offer safe and adequate services, and that it can block airlines from conducting unfair and deceptive practices.

The public will have an opportunity to share their thoughts on a formal call ban later this year, but it's clear the DOT intends to do what it can to block travelers from making cellphone calls on flights.

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You can read ebooks, listen to music and watch movies, play Angry Birds, and even text and email on your flights, but make a call? Looks like the DOT doesn't want to have anything to do with that.

Sitting next to someone who chatters away on calls all through a flight doesn't sound like a great way to travel, but doesn't mean the government needs to step in and regulate when we can answer our smartphones. Many airlines already have their own in-flight call ban rules, and some are looking at ways to allow calls in a non-disruptive way.

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Lee Dronick

  Sitting next to someone who chatters away on calls all through a flight doesn’t sound like a great way to travel

Sitting near someone who chatters all through the flight, or anywhere for that matter, has been a problem since before cell phones.


Agreed.  pre-cell phone.  I once sat next to a lawyer on a flight from LA to Detroit.  Shortly after liftoff he got the charge phone from the holder and proceeded to call everyone he could think of to discuss his clients botched hysterectomy over the 4 hours of the flight.  Back then they served meals and no one touched their’s for a 3 seat radius.  The government or anyone else banning calls is welcome.  Text, email, twitter, Facebook, ANYTHING but phone calls and video chats.


I think it is a safety concern. If calls are allowed it won’t be long before someone tries to strangle the AH in the seat next to them that won’t STFU.

Bart B

Assuming you can use the internet on board to stay in contact with people in a non-anti-social way, I don’t see a phone ban as a bad thing.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a regulation, but, if I had the choice between a flight with an airline that allowed calls, and one that didn’t, I’d fly the quiet one!

I guess the ideal would be to have it like on trains in so many places around the world, a quiet section, and an chattering section.

Graham Banzer

I have an idea. The DOT should also ban talking on phones on Busses, Trains, Ships/Ferries. Why not even ban people from talking to their friends or co-passengers? Let’s make the world a more anti-social place and push everybody even further into Social Networking. Make everybody stay silent outside of their own home. That’s the way to go! Aaah peace and quiet.

DOT should just go to India and convert to being a Monk if they wish for peace and quiet. Seems like they’d be at home there…

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