As you’ve probably heard, federal regulators are considering lifting the national ban on in-flight phone calls. Not surprisingly, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, people are less than thrilled about it.
The prohibition has been in place for 22 years, and the FCC held the first of several meetings on the topic on Thursday. At this point, phone technology is too fancy for calls from 35,000 feet to overload cellphone towers on the ground, so there’s technically no reason the government should not allow those calls to happen. Legal or not, nobody is really loving the idea of sitting next to someone who gabs to their best friend on the phone all the way from NYC to LAX.
Lately, flyers have been celebrating the FAA’s recent lift on the ban on using electronic devices during take-off and landing, and which has brought extra attention to the in-flight call rule. According to the AP-GfK poll, 48 percent of Americans oppose in-flight voice calls, and only 19 percent full-on support it. For frequent flyers who’ve taken four or more flights in the past year, the rate of opposition goes up to 78 percent. Passengers’ biggest fear (and mine too) seems to be that manners will go out the window, and that people will find themselves trapped in a metal tube with loud, rude phone conversations surrounding them in every direction.
Even Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s new chairman who is pushing to get the ban lifted, opposes the idea of allowing the calls. “We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself,” he said. His hope, though, is that the choice remains in the hands of the airlines rather than the government.
Plenty of airlines in other parts of the world allow in-flight calls, so it’s not such an unfathomable idea. Only one airline has insisted that it will not allow voice calls, while others plan to study the situation and listen to passenger and crew feedback. The country’s largest flight attendant union is against the idea of phone calls too, mostly because it could lead to flights between passengers, presumably ones that they’d have to break up – and just when they’ve finally been relieved of having to pester passengers to turn off their iPads before take-off!