Last updated: 10:14 AM ET, Wed September 02 2015

Could Airlines Begin to Allow In-Flight Cellphone Calls?

Airlines & Airports | U.S. Department of Transportation | Patrick Clarke | September 02, 2015

Could Airlines Begin to Allow In-Flight Cellphone Calls?

The Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection has recommended the U.S. Department of Transportation allow airlines to determine whether cellphone calls can be made in-flight, assuming the technology doesn't jeopardize safety.

USA Today reported the consumer panel urged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to continue working on the issue Tuesday. 

"We recommend that if safe and secure... the Department of Transportation allow airlines to decide whether to permit passengers to use mobile devices for voice calls," said panel chairman and Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane via USA Today.

While members of the Federal Communications Commission, including chairman Tom Wheeler, have said that ongoing fears of calls jamming up ground stations working to relay them are no longer warranted, resistance from federal agencies and select members of Congress threaten the prospects of the FCC lifting its 1991 ban on in-flight mobile phone calls.

In addition to many air travelers feeling frustrated about the idea of their fellow passengers chatting it up in the cabin, flight attendants have expressed fears regarding potential terrorism efforts.

USA Today reported that some within Congress have even threatened to introduce legislation that would ban in-flight calls if the FCC were to end its prohibition. 

On the other side are companies looking to increase profit by supplying airlines with necessary equipment and billing customers over the course of their flight. 

But comments collected by the FCC and DOT have been unanimously opposed to in-flight cellphone calls, and last year the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on legislation to ban mobile calls on flights.

So far, no timetable for resolving the issue has been established.

Currently, several foreign carriers permit in-flight calls, which are usually short. However, that service is required to be turned off within 250 miles of the U.S.


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