Should regulators and airlines allow in-flight cell phone calls?

The Federal Communications Commission signaled today, by a 3-2 vote, that it could be open to allowing phone calls on airplanes. But despite some occasionally excited media coverage, it didn’t do much else than that. Nothing is imminent.

Neither U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, nor U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was particularly amused by this FCC development. In a statement, Foxx said his department wants a say in what happens, along with the FCC.

“As the FCC has said before, their sole role on this issue is to examine the technical feasibility of the use of mobile devices in flight,” Foxx said. “We believe USDOT’s role, as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers. USDOT will now begin a process that will look at the possibility of banning these in-flight calls.”

Feinstein and colleague Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also introduced legislation today to prohibit airplane cell phone conversations.

“Flying on a commercial airline—in a confined space, often for many hours—is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cellphones,” Feinstein said in a statement. “This bill recognizes the use of cellphones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights.”

What do you think? Should calls be allowed on airplanes?

As USA Today reported recently, many international carriers, includes Aer Lingus and Etihad already permit calls. 

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