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

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.