Ban on cell phone calls in airplane cabins may be coming soon

A draft of rules and guidelines for the United States for aircraft calls and use of headsets in the plane cabin is expected to be announced as early as next month, but some industry experts are advising caution.

The airlines on which the U.S. Department of Transportation is weighing the new regulations say they’re considering very restrictive conditions — limiting calls to 30 minutes in a row or a smaller number of calls during a flight.

Officials at Southwest Airlines recently explained why this option could not be universally adopted, saying: “The availability of gate-to-gate voice communications during flight is an issue that must be reconciled with the planned development of ultra-low cost carriers and other deregulation-driven moves toward direct flight access and greater airside service at small airports and corporate airports.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also warned that these restrictions could violate passengers’ free speech rights — which is why it introduced a petition to the Department of Transportation to prohibit cell phone calls on airplanes. The signatures reached tens of thousands of signatures in a matter of days, the newspaper The Washington Post reported.

These new rules would be part of a bigger international agreement to allow flights to engage in call-and-text transactions. In July, the EU’s aviation authority said that, starting later this year, passengers on commercial flights over 200 miles long may no longer have to change their phone settings to “airplane mode” in order to make calls and texts on phones with a wireless connection.

Some experts have also voiced doubt about the efficacy of restrictions on cell phone use in the plane cabin. Kate Hanni, the founder of the nonprofit No Passenger Left Behind, told Quartz that even if these restrictions were to be enacted, airlines and passengers would have to decide whether they were willing to forgo calls. After all, with the acquisition of airline bars and reclining seats, “it’s getting harder to sit back with your legs folded,” she added.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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