Rule Change Could Allow In-Flight Phone Calls

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) —

If airlines allow passengers to make in-flight cellphone calls, the carrier must notify passengers in advance, under a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The rule, proposed this week, may be a moot question because the Department of Transportation is still considering a complete ban on airborne voice calls within, to or from the United States.

Still, the agency said that if such calls are allowed, airlines could prohibit them on all or some individual flights, and should notify passengers of the policy for their flight in advance.

“Consumers deserve to have clear and accurate information about whether any airline permits voice calls before they purchase a ticket and board the aircraft,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

The Federal Communications Commission currently prohibits cellphone calls on commercial flights but has opened the door for phone calls using the airplane’s wi-fi connection. Several airlines, including Delta Air Lines, have said they oppose allowing voice calls on their planes — even those using wi-fi.

Flight attendants have also spoken out against calls on planes, saying loud phone conversations are sure to create conflict and confusion.

“Anything short of banning voice calls is reckless,” Sara Nelson, president of the Assn. of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement. “It threatens aviation security and increases the likelihood of conflict in the skies.”

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