Fight over in-flight calling heats up

Most people hate the idea, according to a recent poll. But the government is inching closer to allowing airlines to make the final decision.

By Benzinga Dec 13, 2013 3:44PM

Woman using computer on airplane © Compassionate Eye Foundation, Lifesize, Getty ImagesBy Jim Probasco

If you are someone who flies four or more times a year, chances are you do not want to listen to other people talking on their cellphones while you are on an airplane.

According to a poll by The Associated Press released Wednesday, more than three out of four frequent fliers (78 percent) opposed in-flight voice calls.

The debate revolves around a recent ruling by the Federal Communications 

Commission that there was no technical reason to ban phone calls on airplanes. The FCC voted 3-2 to begin a several months long public comment process on whether to remove its restriction and allow individual airlines to determine whether to allow in-flight calls.

The potential lifting of the FCC rule prompted two things: lots of public outrage and an announcement from the Department of Transportation that it might initiate its own in-flight call ban in the name of "fairness to consumers."

Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said in a statement, "Over the past few weeks, we have heard of concerns raised by airlines, travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others who are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight -- and I am concerned about this possibility as well."

In addition to passengers, who generally oppose voice calls in-flight, the Association of Flight Attendants, representing 60,000 flight attendants on 19 airlines, released a statement expressing strong opposition to lifting the ban, mainly on the grounds it could lead to fights between passengers.

On the other side, The Associated Press reported that the Telecommunications Industry Association said it supported the change and pointed out that in countries where voice calls are allowed, they typically last one to two minutes and are often made by passengers checking voice mail without speaking.

Among domestic carriers, only Delta (DAL) has said it would not allow voice calls on airplanes no matter what the government said. Delta cited what it said was years of feedback from customers opposing the notion of allowing voice calls on airplanes.

Others, including American Airlines (AAL), United Airlines and JetBlue Airways (JBLU) said they would study the issue and listen to feedback from passengers and crew.

Many foreign airlines, including most in the Middle East and some in Asia and Europe allow voice calls on planes – with restrictions.

Wednesday, Southwest Airlines (LUV) began allowing passengers with iPhones to send and receive text messages through a satellite connection – for a fee. The airline said it planned to expand the system to Android phones early in 2014.

In the meantime, several members of Congress have introduced legislation to ban fliers from talking on cell phones in flight.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

Read more from Benzinga

Dec 13, 2013 4:00PM
 I concur no voice calls on airlines. Should be that way in eateries as well. To many people think they have to talk loud to be heard. Like there using two cans and a string. Rude.
Dec 13, 2013 4:49PM
Give up the phone for a few hours-you won't die !
Dec 13, 2013 5:16PM
Keep the ban...  Flying is bad enough...  I cant imagine having to sit next to a 15 year old girl while she is on the phone for an entire flight... 
Dec 13, 2013 5:26PM

But I don't want to spend 2 hours on an airplane listening to some self-important stuffed shirt yammering into his cell phone to his flunkies.


I say no way! No cell phones on airplanes!

Dec 13, 2013 4:47PM
I think the ban on in-flight calls should not be lifted. I appreciate the fact that I don't have to listen to cell phone ring tones, or people having phone conversations out loud, as in a lot of public places when I'm flying.
Dec 13, 2013 5:35PM
I couldn't think of anything that would make the already miserable act of flying worse than the person sitting next to me talking on the phone.  Hopefully the airlines will listen to the 78% of frequent flyers opposing in flight calls. 
Dec 13, 2013 5:28PM
This cannot be allowed. You can't count on people to be polite, could have 250 polite people on a flight that wouldn't think of having some inane conversation on a plane, but it will just take 1 inconsiderate soul to make everyone miserable. 

Keep the ban.  
Dec 13, 2013 5:19PM
NO! No chit-chat on mobile phones in flight.  Texting is fine but I do not want to sit near someone who is yuking it up on the phone during a trip.  Its irritating enough in the waiting area. 
Dec 13, 2013 6:20PM
It's inappropriate and rude to talk on your phone in any environment where you're elbow to elbow with dozens of other people. 
Dec 13, 2013 6:02PM

"In related news the airlines announced the hiring of 500 air marshalls as the anticipation of in- flight assaults with sudden cellphone-enema syndrome are expected to rise......".

Dec 13, 2013 7:52PM
people don't need to be glued to their cell phones 24/7.....there are enough irritating people on planes now, I don't want to hear them quacking on the phone 30,000 miles up in the air where I can't get away from it
Dec 13, 2013 6:33PM
If people thought it was annoying to have someone chattering away in a loud voice several tables away in a restaurant, just wait until that person is sitting next to him. It doesn't matter if it's a one hour flight or a transatlantic flight. Nix the in-flight phone call. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of no one being able to reach you for at least one hour.The world will continue to turn while you are "gone".
Dec 14, 2013 8:51PM


Airlines need to set up special areas for frequent gabbers, somewhere out on the wing seems very appropriate.


Also, put the 5 year old kids who continually kick the back of your seat, and their ignorant, self-possessed mothers, out there on the wing as well.

Dec 14, 2013 9:09AM

So, just when airlines are shrinking seat space so they can shoehorn more of us in, some genius bureaucrats think it would be o.k. to allow self centered loud mouths to yell into their phones 4 inches from my ear? I don't think so.


Dec 13, 2013 8:06PM
The problem here is that passengers are confined to a limited space on the plane. it's not like public places. On the plane, if someone is talking over the phone for trivial things on and on and on for hours, then the one who sits next, behind, in front, of the talker has no where to avoid that rubbi**** considered a disturbance to the passengers and could cause fights on the plane.

For goodness sake, you won't die without talking over the phone on the plane. I'm all against voice calls on the plane. I'm fine with texting.
Dec 13, 2013 7:25PM
absolutely no phone calls. I can't stand to be around the loud-mouths blaring their business for everyone to hear. it just chills me to think I might have to be rude to some **** that won't hold it down. you will be inviting trouble......
Dec 13, 2013 7:29PM
You can bet the cell phone companies will find some way to add an extra charge for this. $$$$ for them. 
I think it's a terrible idea. Flying is bad enough with cramped seating and ridiculous fares.
Dec 13, 2013 7:03PM
NO-NO voice mail -bad enough listening to the jerks before take off and then several minutes while taking off when they are suppose to be off- they continue/continue, etc,
Dec 14, 2013 12:01AM

If I have to live without smoking during a flight, others can live without a in-flight call, until they reach a designated area.

Dec 13, 2013 8:13PM
Are you kidding me??  Can't anyone put the phone down? You've lived without doing it this long, I think that you will survive. If this happens I am retiring from my job as a flight attendant.  The most critical phases of flight are takeoff and landing.  No one was paying attention before the new ruling allowing use of devices. Now you want them all talking at once for an entire flight?  Who the hell is making these ridiculous decisions?  I can guarantee it involves CASH$$.
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