In-flight phone calls likely won't happen with proposed new U.S. rules

The United States Department of Transportation is getting closer to establishing formal rules on whether or not to allow in-flight communications, including receiving and placing phone calls while on a plane. Likely, according to reports, that decision would be no, meaning that passengers would continue to be barred from placing or receiving phone calls while they are in transit.

"The Department of Transportation plans to pursue the next step in what could lead to a formal ban on in-flight calls, the agency's general counsel Kathryn Thomson said in a speech last week," the Journal reported.

The DoT is developing a notice of proposed rulemaking and would open the issue up for further comments until February before a final ruling is made.

Late last year, the FCC, another government agency, was considering reversing rules that would bar in-flight phone use. The FCC views that the several decade-long ban on in-flight cell phone use established to prevent interference with radio equipment is now no longer relevant. Despite the softening approach by the FCC, those rules if ever approved, would fall behind the DoT's regulations as the DoT rules would take precedent.

The controversial DoT move is being opposed by the airline and wireless industry with airlines wanting to make the decision themselves and the Telecommunications Industry Association saying that the DoT doesn't need to interfere.

Source: Wall Street Journal

 

Reader comments

In-flight phone calls likely won't happen with proposed new U.S. rules

42 Comments

A baby is going to cry no matter what, and has less control over their actions. Me talking on the phone is a deliberate decision.

Get out of here with all of that sound logic! Maybe there should be a law against parents who've learned to completely ignore an out of control baby/child in some public places though. Sad I'd even consider that, but I would. I know you can't just expect them to say a magic word and it'd stop, but at least try something. TIA. /end rant

Babies sometimes cry due to unequal air pressure in their ear canals. Deal with it, selfish people.

Phone calls must be banned because selfish inconsiderate people will prompt rage and backlash endangering safety of all.

Agreed.

If there was ever an environment where 200 people are busy texting on their phones would be welcome its on a plane. Just give me a cup of internet and a glass of wine. I'll be fine.

Only if they switch their phones to vibrate.

I believe there's a special place in hell for people who have an entire song as their text message tone, and get a lot of texts.

Except a baby has little control over his actions, whereas some jerkface screaming "HELLO HELLO" into his phone all flight long is completely up to him AND also way more likely to incite a violent event in the plane than a helpless baby. Way to fail at applying logic bubba, I really hope the DoT wins this one.

I don't even care. They can talk all they want. Sennheiser PXC450's to the rescue! I never fly without them.

I was just coming to say something similar.

You have to really need to make that call though with the costs involved.

Prices are coming down. United is now charging $1/hour for restricted access (email and a few other low-bandwidth services) and $2/hour for full Web access (with the exception of YouTube, Netflix, etc). That's a lot cheaper than it was last year, and the option to just order one hour of access for a couple bucks is hugely useful.

Posted from my Nexus 5, behind seven proxies

I HATE flying so it has been awhile, I didn't know prices had come down that far. Good to know though...thanks

I'm not sure if it's like that across the board. United seems to have ditched Gogo In-Flight at some point this year, which is a step in the right direction.

I'm sure they'll end up blocking access to wifi calling while connected to in-flight wifi. United's in-flight wifi already blocks Skype (as well as streaming media services) although my phone doesn't support real wifi calling, so I haven't tried that.

Posted from my Nexus 5, behind seven proxies

I am glad calls will not be allowed. I am sick and tired of sitting on a bus or train and hearing people talking about their personal situations or business. People just don't know how to be dignified when on a cell phone and end up looking like fools or the untrained, and I end up angry at having to hear one side of a conversation I never wanted to hear in the first place...so I agree with this ruling.

Good. Regardless of what the conversation is about, it is irritating to everyone else and none of our business.

I can think of no greater hell than being stuffed into coach with a phone blabber 18 inches next to me.

+Inifinity! Can't wait to hear some pompous a$$ tell all the cities he/she's been needed in for the past month, and a host of other ridiculous unnecessary convos. I dread the day.

Maybe they can create a voice call area / booth or voice section and non-voice section. But seriously, if airlines care about customer experience at all, then they had better get ready.

We are already facing sexual molestation by TSA every time we go to the gate.

I usually wear IEM on a plane so I'm oblivious to everything (cheaper and more effective than NC IMO, if you can get along with the in ear fit). Etymotic IEM are some of the most isolating out there (more so than even $500 custom molded IEM) tho they also sit deeper in the ear canal than many.

That being said, I'm still wildly in favor of this. Not everyone's got a nice pair of headphones, and once you allow calls it won't be one or two idiots using it, it'll be half the plane yammering away and screaming "HELLO, CAN YOU HEAR ME?" simultaneously when the signal flickers.

Frankly speaking, I wouldn't wanna be the air marshal on board when that situation gets out of hand and other people start screaming 'shut up!'...

Unless the plane is being hijacked or something is wrong and it's a emergency.

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Funny - when I started reading this I thought "how dare the DoT restrict me", I have long believed that the FCC ruling that it would interfere with navigation equipment is a dodge. Then I started reading these comments, I now agree, I don't want to sit on a plane next to some guy having a conversation that I just don't what to hear.

Rude people are incapable of governing themselves, this is one case where I agree, let the government keep the ban. Besides most flights are short enough, good time to do actual reading!

Do you guys saying it is annoying listening to people talk on their mobile phones also want the government to protect you from such annoyances at restaurants as well? Surely the government should just control every aspect of our lives, right? Why not just make a list of everything that inconveniences you and send it to your representatives and beg them to point the guns of government at anyone who doesn't agree? Do you guys have any concern whatsoever for expansion of government power?

This is ineffectual, absurd slippery slope fear mongering at its pinnacle. Although I disagree with this overbearing, all-encompassing anti-government argument, I would agree that there is a valid debate to be had. Should a government agency put forth a blanket rule like this, or should the decision be left to individual airlines? I believe that there are valid arguments on both sides of this question. However, an invalid argument is that disallowing in-flight cellphone calls on commercial flights by DOT will lead to "the government" protecting you from personal annoyances at restaurants, and controlling every aspect of our lives.

Posted via Android Central App

You also made a logical fallacy:

"However, an invalid argument is that disallowing in-flight cellphone calls on commercial flights by DOT will lead to "the government" protecting you from personal annoyances at restaurants, and controlling every aspect of our lives."

This is a strawman. I didn't say "by the DOT." I said "also want the government to protect you from such annoyances at restaurants as well?" No one is saying, "I welcome regulation by the DOT and only the DOT." They're saying "the government." The argument I'm making is that one little law and regulation at a time is why the US government has clearly gone off the rails with regulations. Some people clearly are willing to regulate something based on it just being annoying to them. And yet, mobile phone usage in restaurants seems to be controlled fine without govt regulations, why not on airplanes as well?

In my opinion, this general attitude of it being ok to use govt regulations to handle something as simple as handling mobile phone usage on an airplane isn't a healthy attitude for keeping a govt unencumbered. And the US govt is already encumbered with regulations to the point that the public has almost no way of being able to follow them all in every day life. So the argument in response is, "yeah but this is just mobile phone usage on an airplane, they can get reminded every time they get on an airplane, etc, etc." Sure, but it's also the reach of govt extended 1 step further than it needs to be. To take a bit further, this is an unelected government agency and government officials creating enforceable policy without input from the public, and without a vote on it.

They're keeping in place a restriction that already exists. That's not "expansion".

I get that you want to be able to yell into your phone on planes (and probably at theateres and weddings, because 'Murrica), but look at the comments above, most people clearly don't want this to be legal. For once, the government is actually making a decision that is in line with the majority opinion of the citizens!

And your comparison to phone use at restaurants doesn't hold up. People in restaurants are usually engaged in other activities, be it talking with friends, drinking, or stuffing their face. Nobody is in the restaurant trying to sleep or watch an in-flight movie. On an airplane, people ARE trying to sleep and watch an in-flight movie. And inconsiderate jack***es are going to be bored, and yell into their phones due to the mediocre coverage and annoy the hell out of everyone else.

Your slippery-slope argument holds no water. It's actually possible to illegalize one thing without illegalizing everything else.

Actually, the FCC wanted to change it and the DOT wanted it to stay. So the also unelected DOT and DOT officials are trying to ensure something stays a criminal act.

I have no desire to yell into my phone on airplanes, weddings, theaters, or anywhere. I have a lot of respect for other people's comfort.

I have seen many people get bitched out at restaurants for their mobile phone usage, by patrons and by restaurant employees. This hasn't been much of a problem over the last many years because restaurants have an understood policy on this; If you cause problems in their restaurant, you can get banned, asked to leave, etc. I understand that people can't be asked to leave an airplane (although... it would be a pretty powerful deterrent). If you cause problems on an airplane, you might get a lot more than just banned - you might end up on a nofly list of one nature or another. So if the staff asks you to get off your phone, and you don't, then this might be the last time you get to fly.

Please don't resort to accusing me of logical fallacies if you're going to make logical fallacies.

1) Ad hominem: I get that you want to be able to yell into your phone on planes (and probably at theateres and weddings, because 'Murrica)
2) Hasty generalization: "For once, the government is actually making a decision that is in line with the majority opinion of the citizens!'
3) Strawman: "It's actually possible to illegalize one thing without illegalizing everything else." I didn't say anything even remotely close to this. I asked this is a question to see how people feel about the idea of the govt controlling everything. Why not let the govt control everything? Do you see something wrong with it? More importantly, that isn't even close to the argument I'm making. Just to be clear, your position that I'm saying, "if you regulate this, everything will get regulated," is invalid. Instead I'm saying, "this is just one more regulation on the piles of little regulations, they add up, and what they've added up to already is a problem, so stop adding to it."

If something is illegal, and other entities of the same government also want to make it illegal, this is not an expansion of government power. It's the same government enforcing the same law.

You are correct that somebody getting too loud on an airplane is already subject to discipline. However, if you get half a plane yakking on their cell phones, trying to overcome not only poor signal but also each other, what are you going to do? Detain half the passengers on the plane? Everyone will be talking loudly and that loudness will become the new "baseline". It will be the equivalent of talking on your phone at a nice restaurant vs talking on your phone at a Chuck E. Cheese. People at the nice restaurant will scold you, because the offender is being an annoying ****, but nobody will care at the Chuck E. Cheese, because the place is already loud.

Ad-hominem atack - I apologize for that. You initially struck me as a right-wing nut, and I acted inappropriately.

Hasty Generalization -I don't apologize for this. The majority of people in this discussion thread are clearly opposed to mobile phone conversations on planes. And yes, that is just a small sampling of people... so I took to the internet, and searched for "should cell phones be allowed on planes survey". Literally every single survey I found, the majority were against mobile phone calls on airplanes. And that includes several studies done by Lufthansa airlines.

Strawman - Nice try. The first two sentences of your initial post are clearly a slippery-slope argument. If they weren't intended to be, then you chose your words poorly. This is why at least one other person thought you were making the same argument. If I said "A phone with a 6 inch screen? Surely you think a phone with a 42 inch screen would be ok, right?", It's pretty obvious I'm not just innocently asking if people think phones with 42 inch screens are a good idea.
Of course they wouldn't think the Samsung Galaxy Uber, with a 42 inch screen, would be a good idea, just like we obviously don't think the government should be called in to quell everything that we potentially find annoying. However, in this case, we don't mind the existing regulation on phone usage, because the good (a relatively quiet flight) outweigh the bad (oh noes, 5 hours without a phone call).

So here are some other ways the airline can regulate mobile phone usage on airplanes, off the top of my head:

1) Signal Jammer.
2) Special areas on the plan for having phone calls.
3) Request for private hours.
4) Suggestion that volumes be kept down.
5) Reminder that other people are trying to relax and if using your phone be prepared to be asked to keep it down and respect other's privacy from both staff and customers.
6) Sell noise cancellation and in ear canal headsets on the airplane.

People can also communicate on "phone calls" on the plane without their mobile phone. They can use the internet and make voice calls, which happens now. Should the DOT regulate this?

People can also talk to other people on the plane loudly and annoyingly. Should the DOT regulate this?

I've dealt with the noise on airplanes by wearing in ear canal earphones. What has never even crossed my mind slightly is that the government should scare people out of being loud on the plane.

People talking in person act very differently than people talking on the phone. In person, social and visual cues prevent *most* people from talking too loudly. On the phone, that all seems to go right out the window. Also, in-person conversations don't have to overcome static, poor signal, and the other shortcomings of mobile phones. This is why a person talking into their phone in a restaurant, even a full restaurant, seems louder than the other patrons.

Voice calls over the internet are also an annoyance, but the airlines seem to be taking care of that by blocking popular VOIP services on their in-flight internet.

I totally understand your point about maintaining an existing regulation, but I truly don't think that is relevant, though I will address that as well. My actual argument is about people wanting to solve problems through govt threat that can be solved in actuality without govt involvement, and probably solved more efficiently, safer, and without creating criminals out of peaceful people for things like "being annoying."

I mostly agree with you that this isn't an expansion of govt power. Essentially it is a confirmation for what we already have. But that isn't the case of what is happening legally. The DOT is looking to create regulations to get what they want, not just prevent the FCC regulations from being lifted. In fact, and please mark my words on this; I expect any actual changes or legislation on this whatsoever to be an increase of what is currently in place. With that aside, I also believe that a desire to avoid govt expansion must intrinsically include a desire to reduce govt. The best way to prevent the govt from expanding is to roll back its power in areas that it is "unneeded."

If you believe in democracy, and half the plane is yakking, how can you feel comfortable about legislating against the outcome? If it is an even tie wouldn't this preclude any creation of regulations? If the yakkers are +1, shouldn't they get their way and not only should the regulation stay off the books?

But where is your evidence for this assumption? "Everyone will be talking loudly and that loudness will become the new 'baseline'." I don't see how that is substantiated at all. Would the difference just be nice airlines vs noisy airlines? Kind of like restaurants?

Sorry, I don't care at all about you attacking me. I'm not offending in any way. I just want to have a reasonable discussion. I don't think it is justified to attack someones character regardless of their position. So I didn't point that out because I felt attacked. I pointed it out because it makes it difficult to take you seriously if you rely on such, and try to point out such to me.

I'm sorry but I completely disagree with your claim about me creating a slipper slope argument. Please forgive me if this is too closely a repeat of what I said before, but I don't think you understand me, so I will attempt to explain, again.

This is more along the lines of a slippery slope:
"You should not support this regulation because if you do, more regulations will be created."

What I said was:
"Do you guys saying it is annoying listening to people talk on their mobile phones also want the government to protect you from such annoyances at restaurants as well? Surely the government should just control every aspect of our lives, right?"

That isn't a slipper slope fallacy. This is what it would need to say to be a slippery slope:
"If you guys want to regulate people for being annoying on planes, then you also want to regulate them for being annoying in restaurants and in any other way that annoys you."

That isn't what I'm doing. In fact, I wasn't even making an argument in those sentences. All someone had to say was, "no I don't feel that way about all annoyances, just about airplanes." Additional proof about whether or not I was making a slippery slope fallacy in any way would have been in my reply to that answer. If someone said "no" and I said, "but you must based on your position to regulate anything annoying!" In that case I would have clearly demonstrated I committed the fallacy. But that was never even remotely close to my intention or my argument. What I would have said instead, if anyone had bothered to just say, "no, I don't want to regulate all annoying things," would have been, "ok, but we don't need to regulate this on airplanes either, and here's why..."

I don't agree with your comparison about 6" vs 42". That is a comparison with an exact specific measurement attached to it. The content above is about people being annoying/irritating, which is a general disagreement with other peoples behavior. My position on it is that it is irresponsible to aim govt violence at peaceful, innocent people to threaten them against doing things people don't like just because they don't like being annoyed - especially when there are peaceful alternatives to using the govt to get what they want. This is a better comparison:

"Man I love that iPhone 6 because I LOVE huge screens."
"Then surely you would love a phone the size of a television."

I will admit that my statement could have been clearer.

"Hasty Generalization"
I'm sorry but you were talking about creating regulations based on a thread with 38 comments in it. That is essentially the essence of hasty generalization fallacy. I understand that you now claim to have gone and looked things up. Why did you not mention that then instead of just referencing this thread? It's hard for me to believe you are being honest about that point.

Actually, I accused you of a strawman because your specification about the DOT in the argument you accused me of making. I already addressed this in detail and don't need to do so again.

So you acknowledge that the airlines are handling the VoIP situation, but you don't believe they can be trusted to handle the mobile phone situation?

I'm not in agreement with your statements about people in person vs mobile. I've asked and watched staff ask people to be quieter in restaurants for both mobile phone usage and in person communication. It's not an severely uncommon problem, it's just one people are generally too uncomfortable to deal with in the moment. I understand there is a potential volume difference for people yelling at their phones to try to get through - which is why I will say something to them. But that is compared to normal speaking people. Aggressively loud people at restaurants blow away the volume of mobile phone users in my experience. And it's either sit there and suffer, leave, or ask them to be quieter.

I truly don't care about any of the above, at all. What I care about is that I don't see this is a justifiable regulation for the govt to threaten people with. Just as I don't see it as justifiable to threaten people with most things people want to make regulations out of, or already have, that are based on annoyances. People above are making this argument:

"This is bad. Regulate!"

And they do so without any communicated effort at all on their part to come up with alternative to a legislated solution. It's alarming to me that people would jump straight to giving (or in this case, maintaining) govt power without any effort to alternatives. This mindset could have a lot to do with why the US govt is the bloated, oppressive, ever growing, murderous world bully that it is.

Why isn't the immediate reaction, "is there no alternative to prevent people from using their phone on the plane? What can we do to keep govt out of this equation? Do we have to resort to the absolute last resort of creating a law?" Instead many peoples immediate reaction tends to be, "I don't like this! ban it!"

Now I'm going to give you something to accuse me of a slipper slope over.
Govt is the ultimate slipper slope. When you crank one up, it's not just a slippery slope, it's a slope that basically can't possible by backtracked without the entire thing collapsing. At least, this appears to be the history of govt. They seem to either grow to collapse, are growing to collapse, get overthrown, or have been overthrown. Being accused of a slippery slope in a conversation where I''m against government regulation is hilarious to me. The more power you give govt, the more power it has to give itself more power. It's the ultimate actual slippery slope situation.

I agree with some of your points, but feel that you're grasping at straws for others.

Your example of a "slippery slope" fallacy, and what you actually said, are nearly identical. The fact that I used exact sizes in my example is completely irrelevant. Let me make it incredibly simple:
If X is good, then lots and lots of X must also be good!
If a large screen on a phone is good, then a massive screen on a phone is good!
If government regulation for this annoyance is good, then government regulation for every annoyance is good!

"The slippery slope fallacy is committed only when we accept without further justification or argument that once the first step is taken, the others are going to follow, or that whatever would justify the first step would in fact justify the rest. Note, also, that what some see as the undesirable consequence lurking at the bottom of the slope others may regard as very desirable indeed."
(Howard Kahane and Nancy Cavender, Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric, 8th ed., Wadsworth, 1998)

Now that that's out of the way...
You mention that regulation of phone calls on airplanes should be left up to the airlines, but other than banning violators from airlines (a PR nightmare for an industry that already claims to be struggling), you provide no feasible way for this to be done.
Signal jammers - probably not a great idea on an airplane. If a portable DVD player can potentially mess with the plane's instruments, I can only imagine what kind of havoc a signal jammer would cause.
Designated areas on the plane- If you can find an empty area in a plane for this, I'm sure Delta would love to hear about it so they could try to jam another dozen econo-class seats in that spot. So that leaves the bathrooms, cargo hold, and the wings. lol.
Request for private hours - They already have that, it's called "the duration of the flight". Seems to be working well.
Suggestion that volumes be kept down - I'm sure that'll work for the self-important dolt that just HAS to call somebody right now. Hundreds of studies suggest that calling while driving is dangerous... a real actual safety hazard... and nobody listens to that.
Reminders - Same as suggestions. Won't do a thing.
Selling earplugs - This could actually work, and we both know the airlines will do anything to make a buck. I wouldn't be surprised if they started selling cell phones on the plane, just so they could sell more ear plugs to the people sitting next to the people who bought the cell phones.

And for the record, I didn't mention the DOT in my initial post. I believe that was somebody else.

“I agree with some of your points, but feel that you're grasping at straws for others.”

“Your example of a "slippery slope" fallacy, and what you actually said, are nearly identical. The fact that I used exact sizes in my example is completely irrelevant. Let me make it incredibly simple:
“If X is good, then lots and lots of X must also be good!”

The key word here is must. I never said must. That is why I’m asking questions instead of stating a logical conclusion that I find to be true. Do you see the difference?

“If a large screen on a phone is good, then a massive screen on a phone is good!”

The repeated key phrase here is, “is good.” This means that a position is being stated as a logical conclusion, and no question is being asked.

“If government regulation for this annoyance is good, then government regulation for every annoyance is good!”

Again, this a statement about what “is,” and not a question to ask someone if they agree. This is not equivalent to my actions.

“You mention that regulation of phone calls on airplanes should be left up to the airlines, but other than banning violators from airlines (a PR nightmare for an industry that already claims to be struggling), you provide no feasible way for this to be done.”

So you’re saying that the only possible way to handle this privately is by banning violators and we must protect the airline industry from that? I’m not in agreement that this is the only way, but I also don’t agree that it would be a PR nightmare. If so many people are so interested in preventing people from talking on mobile phones, at least enough to justify banning it with govt regulation, won’t people be happy to hear that people have been banned from the airlines? Isn’t the idea here a deterrent from talking on the phone? If facing criminality is a sufficient deterrent (even though people apparently do still make calls from airplanes now), wouldn’t being banned from that airline also be a deterrent? I don’t agree that we somehow need to protect the airline from PR nightmares with govt regulations.

Also, I’m not sure I understand this belief that people will only do what the government says, and not what the airline says. If an airline can secure their planes in a manner that regulates mobile phone calls safely, and thus it’s ok to use one the entire time, then perhaps there will be a high demand for that airline’s services. I’d use them, because I hate government regulation over “annoyances.” Regardless of the govt regulation being in place, the airline still has to enforce it while in the air, not the govt. So isn’t this still a PR nightmare as that person will most likely still get banned?

Basically the airline has to be capable of enforcing it, but it’s not their own regulations they’re enforcing, it’s govt regulations… seems silly to me. Why not just enforce their own regulations?

“Signal jammers - probably not a great idea on an airplane. If a portable DVD player can potentially mess with the plane's instruments, I can only imagine what kind of havoc a signal jammer would cause.”

That’s interesting. I googled this and landed on the DVD player instance possibly leading to the 30 degree nav issue that ended after the flight attendants asked the man to turn it off. It’s not exactly a scientific study, just a possibility, but the important thing is how easily they were able to regulate it.

Anyway I agree that the signal jammer sounds dangerous. But it’s an idea and I don’t know what all the possibilities on how to implement it would be. There can even be low power jammers that wouldn’t affect the plane’s instrumentation but would definitely affect mobile phones. Especially based on the locality of the jammer.

“Designated areas on the plane- If you can find an empty area in a plane for this, I'm sure Delta would love to hear about it so they could try to jam another dozen econo-class seats in that spot.”

Maybe it would be worth the extra cost to delta to make up for a couple of seats.

“Request for private hours - They already have that, it's called "the duration of the flight". Seems to be working well.”

Yeah and it would almost definitely continue to work without the government being involved. So why not let the airlines continue to to tell people what they want to happen. If the airlines want to allow people to talk, then so be it. If people don’t want to use an airline that let’s people talk, they don’t have to.

“Suggestion that volumes be kept down - I'm sure that'll work for the self-important dolt that just HAS to call somebody right now. Hundreds of studies suggest that calling while driving is dangerous... a real actual safety hazard... and nobody listens to that.”

Yet, no one is there asking that person to be quiet. I don’t agree with this comparison.

“Reminders - Same as suggestions. Won't do a thing.”

In fact, this is such a bad comparison that government regulation hasn’t prevented people from using their phone in cars, and there is even phone usage on planes.

“Selling earplugs - This could actually work, and we both know the airlines will do anything to make a buck. I wouldn't be surprised if they started selling cell phones on the plane, just so they could sell more ear plugs to the people sitting next to the people who bought the cell phones.”

The sell crappy earphones now. It would be nice to get some better ones.

My idea is to at least try to let the airlines regulate and address these issues on their own… but I’m also pro-mobile phone usage on planes in the first place and letting me and others willing to take responsibility be the one who deals with the noise.

“And for the record, I didn't mention the DOT in my initial post. I believe that was somebody else.”

I admit my mistake.