Phone calls on Delta

A bit of good news today for those of you deathly afraid of someone making a phone call next to you on a Delta flight — it ain't gonna happen, CEO Richard Anderson said today in a memo to employees.

"Our customer research and direct feedback tell us that our frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience," Anderson wrote. "Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls onboard."

We're going to see more and more phones in use one way or another on planes. While we agree that the fear of in-flight phone calls largely is sensationalized — it's loud up there, and someone talking on a phone really isn't an different than someone talking to the person next to them — a little solace at 35,000 probably won't hurt us.

For more, see our special feature, "Below 10,000 feet: Gadgets on planes."

Here's Delta CEO Richard Anderson's full memo to employees:

Last week the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to seek public comment in consideration of lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone use. Delta will not allow cellular calls or internet-based voice communications onboard Delta or Delta Connection flights.

Our customer research and direct feedback tell us that our frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience. In fact, a clear majority of customers who responded to a 2012 survey said they felt the ability to make voice calls onboard would detract from – not enhance – their experience. Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls onboard.

Delta has moved quickly when technological and regulatory breakthroughs provide opportunities to make flying better for our customers. That is why we were the first to file our plan with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to allow customers to use portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet. Similarly, if the FCC lifts its ban on cellular use in flight, Delta will move quickly to enable customers to use text, email and other silent data transmission services gate to gate.

Even as technology advances and as regulations are changed, we will not only consider what we can do, but as importantly we will also consider what is right for our customers and our employees. This is yet another example of how we continue to have your back and how we also rely on your professionalism and experience to guide our actions and decisions.

Thanks for all you do every day for our customers, our colleagues and our business.

Source: Delta


Reader comments

No voice calls on Delta flights, CEO says


While I agree with the statement that it's loud and someone talking on the phone isn't any louder than someone talking next to them...the fact remains that MANY people on planes don't know the people next to them and so they don't talk to them. If you add the ability to talk on a cell phone, now everyone has someone they can talk to, which means many more people will be talking.

Let us text and use internet on planes, but please no voice calling...even though you have to question where Skype, Hangouts Calls, Facetime, VOIP, etc. stand in this mix?

I don't fly often, but when I do I don't want to be bothered by the person next to me talking the entire flight. Stay quiet my friends. ;-)

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I want a phone that can find a cell tower at 35,000 feet while moving at 600 mph, no more dropped calls.

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You'd be surprised how far up phones can get service because there are no obstacles between them and the towers. I tried it last time I flew out of SFO and got LTE for the first 5 to 10 minutes we were in the air. We were pretty high by the time my phone lost service, and I suspect it had more to do with getting away from the city than the altitude.

"it's loud up there, and someone talking on a phone really isn't an different than someone talking to the person next to them."

That's precisely why cell phone use on planes is a bad idea. Because it's loud, people will just speak even louder so the person they are talking to on the phone can hear them over the noise of a plane.

Good decision Delta!

I will never fly on a flight that allows voice calls. There are already enough Walter Mitty types flying around every day, so why encourage a new batch?

Thank the Old Ones that there is still sanity in the world.

EDIT: actually.. they would create insanity... but I digress...

Great news. It's loud up there so people would almost (sort of) be yelling. Sadly, I think this will only be temporary at best. I think the trend worldwide will be to let people talk and any restriction imposed by a handful of airlines won't be respected.

I find myself using my noise-isolating earbuds with more and more frequency. Kind of sad really..

I disagree. If you've ever sat next to someone who is making a call on something like a noisy bus where you're packed in tight and the engine noise is loud, it's profoundly unpleasant, uncomfortable and rude. I could see one or two airlines allowing calls to try to distinguish themselves, but the vast majority of travelers won't want the people next to them making calls (especially when you can text or email instead) and I think airlines will continue to recognize that.

now if only airlines would start offering 'childless' flights for those of us who don't want to get stuck next to screaming infants or in front of kids that insist on kicking the seats. I'd pay a premium for that.

Practically speaking, I've never seen kids in business class. So you can pay a premium for that.


You've been lucky. Premium seats might be less likely to be occupied by children, but I flew on one flight that had 3 of its 8 First Class seats with unaccompanied minors in them. Luckily, they were all well behaved, as they had a myriad of electronics with headphones to entertain them. There are no guarantees, though. Rich kids can be noisy assholes as well.

I was on one flight that was delayed half an hour because a father couldn't/wouldn't get his kid to sit down and buckle up for liftoff. This is obviously an extreme example (the father must have said something inappropriate during the flight as well as he was escorted off by the TSA after we landed), buteven in sitting in business or first class, that doesn't block out the piercing shriek of a child crying or pitching a fit in economy, where most people sit anyhow (and Business/First class simply aren't worth the extreme premium to most people).

"...and someone talking on a phone really isn't an different than someone talking to the person next to them."

That simply isn't true. People talk a lot louder on phones; and would talk even louder than usual to overcome the noisy environment that exists on planes.

I HATE being in a vehicle when someone takes or makes a call right beside me. Damn are they loud. I don't mind as much if they're way back in the third row of my Navigator though. ;-)

I'm glad that they took the in-flight crews' opinions seriously. As important as my opinion as a frequent flyer should be to them, it's the crews whose lives would be most affected by this kind of change. I'm pretty sure in-flight calls would be a nightmare for those folks.

Complimentary active noise-canceling headphones.

Problem solved.

I vote ALL flights have them whether calls are allowed or not. ;-)

how about the underaged flier like me whos dad wants conformation when i sit down and for goodbies and such when i fly home for vacations.

im never loud or obnoctious and my calls last more then 2 or 3 minutes.

Your dad needs to chill. He doesn't need to know the moment your butt cheeks hit the fabric anymore than he needs to know when you're walking back to the toilet.

If he's THAT worried he should accompany you.

Text or email. You don't need to make a call.

And your dad sounds like a helicopter parent, how old are you?

Also, here's a tip, nobody EVER thinks they're loud or obnoxious. But if you're making a call on an airplane, you have to be loud to speak over engine noise and it is certainly obnoxious.

When you first get in the plane you can still make calls. It's only after the cabin doors close you have to shut off your phone. So this should not be an issue.

Great job, Delta. Way to set the lead for others to follow. Since that is all your industry seems to do, hopefully you have set the bar high!

However, I can just see the dbag who is skyping/facetime-ing, saying that he's "technically" not on his phone.

Do people really make that many calls anymore? Almost everyone I know prefers to text, BBM, or use Google Hangouts. Even my kids text me to say "happy birthday". When they call, I know it is something seriously wrong.

It's just as easy to send a message to someone to let them know of delays, leaving on time, or travel changes. As long as the flight has Wi-Fi, I'm good to go. Kudos for not allowing calls during flights.

The first part is a sad statement on what society has become and it applies to most people I know (including me). I do agree wholeheartedly with the second part though.

I don't agree with your first sentence. We can make ANYTHING good, or bad. My kids are grown and moved away, but I receive dozens of texts per week, some with pictures of my grandson, etc. If I think back to when I was in MY 20's and with my new family, my mom might have heard from me once every two weeks!

Are there some who have reduced ability to communicate verbally? Sure. But, for most of us, it has actually allowed us to be closer to those who are far away.

Communication is communication. is the passing of the telegraph a sad statement on our society? Once upon a time the phone was seen as the catalyst for the passing of the written letter and what a sad statement that was on society.

I never thought of text messages as being like the telegraph before, but they absolutely are. Good analogy.

Hurray for Delta! I certainly hope other airlines follow Delta's lead. As for notifying someone that you are safely on the plane, you are allowed to make calls until the flight attendant reminds you to turn off all devices before takeoff.

After sitting on a public transit bus and train many times and hearing a person 7 rows behind yelling obscenities over their phone I certainly don't want phone calls on a plane. Keep your personal stuff to yourself and me out of them.

Can you even imagine a plane loaded with 190 passengers and 50 of them yapping and yelling at once?

Thank you Delta!

It is bad enough when people wearing headphones try to speak up since the normal tendency is to speak to where you can hear yourself. I really don't want to sit next to the person who has an over protective parent or that person who is so in love they just can't go without talking to that person.

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That's the most reasonable observation I've seen regarding this flap over voice calls on planes: "While we agree that the fear of in-flight phone calls largely is sensationalized — it's loud up there, and someone talking on a phone really isn't any different than someone talking to the person next to them". Thank you for that declaration. I have been bemused at the huge "this will be a disaster" declaration in other circles.

Have you not noticed that people talking on their cell phones tend to talk much louder than they would if they were actually talking to someone next to them. Allowing in flight phone calls from a passengers seat would be a terrible idea. I don't think I've ever said this before but anyone who disagrees is simply wrong. Their are simply too many selfish and inconsiderate people out there.

Make it clear that all calls are banned. How do you prevent people from smoking on a flight? You don't take away their cigarettes.

"someone talking on a phone really isn't an different than someone talking to the person next to them"...

Did Phil really say that?!?!?

"it's loud up there, and someone talking on a phone really isn't an different than someone talking to the person next to them"

Except that you can't move, and you're going to be subjected to 1/2 of a conversation that you can't escape.

Trust me, if I have to deal with that, I'm going to start being really obnoxious back.

Last time I was on a crowded bus and person next to me was on phone I just answered the questions they asked and made comment on what they said. They got mad and hung up.

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Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable talking on the phone in front of an "audience."

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He is concerned about the "Experience"?? Because sitting in a extremely small seat and pay way to much money for peanuts (literally) is such a great experience that i want to preserve! Its so nice of Delta to be considerate.

Navemann! Stop that!!! We were happy, for a minute. Now, you've brought us all back down to reality. ;)

Southwest said it first, no phone calls on a flight.

It is smart, and unfortunately needs to be made a rule, there are too many inconsiderate jerks in the world. Golden rule still applies.

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What about the sky phones that used to be on planes? Dont some planes still have them? How are cell phones any different other than the fact that the airlines cannot charge you to talk on them?