Regulator restates ban on mobile phone voice calls during flights

*Aviation stakeholders say restrictions on in-flight calling were put in place to prevent interference with flight controls, radios and navigation equipment, but the move kills idea that drew quick pushback and fears of air rage

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has dismissed a proposal to allow in-flight voice calls via mobile phones, ending its examination of an idea that evoked fears of air rage from passengers trapped besides jabbering seat mates.

The FCC’s four-paragraph order Friday, November 27, was said to have drawn “strong opposition” from pilots and flight attendants.

In 2013, the regulator had proposed allowing mobile telephone conversations above 10,000 feet, adopting practices followed in Europe and elsewhere, where in-flight voice calling is more common.

It was learnt, however, that the proposal led to strong and immediate pushback, with travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others saying they were troubled by the idea of passengers talking on phones in flight.

One group raised “the potential for air rage if passengers are using their cell phone.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in 2017, signalled the agency would move to kill the proposal, which was created under a predecessor, agency report said.

Pai had stated: “Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

The FCC’s proceeding had been moribund since 2014, drawing few comments as the agency retreated before the show of public dismay.

The regulatory agency specifically noted that restrictions on in-flight calling were put in place to prevent interference with flight controls, radios and navigation equipment.

In 2013, it anticipated using technology that funnelled calls through an onboard system.

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