Skift Take

Let's see: Now we have a powerful Congressman telling passengers to keep their personal lives to themselves as one of his arguments against in-flight voice calls. Passengers on European, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American Airlines have been making in-flight voice calls for years, and without major flareups.

In-flight calls from mobile devices would be banned under a bill that the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure planned to introduce today.

Under Representative Bill Shuster’s bill, the Transportation Secretary would issue regulations banning passenger voice calls from all mobile devices during passenger flights — from takeoff until landing — although members of the flight crew, flight attendants, and law enforcement officials carrying out official duties would be able to do so.

As is the custom today, under the Pennsylvania Republican’s bill, phone calls made prior to cabin doors closing and after landings would be OK.

The “Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013,” however, would continue to allow voice calls from phones installed on an aircraft.

Shuster’s bill comes after the FAA approved the use of in-flight electronics, with the exception of voice calls, in October.

The FCC on December 12 is slated to take up this and related issues about access to mobile wireless services in-flight in a proposed rule-making.

“For passengers, being able to use their phones and tablets to get online or send text messages is a useful in-flight option,” Shuster said. “But if passengers are going to be forced to listen to the gossip in the aisle seat, it’s going to make for a very long flight.”

“For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone,” Shuster added.

The committee chairman’s opposition to in-flight voice calls from mobile devices comes despite the fact that European, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American carriers have been allowing such use without great problems for years.

And a recent Skift Asks survey of the general U.S. population found that opposition or indifference to in-flight voice calls wasn’t as sharp as media coverage would have you believe.

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Tags: faa, fcc, in-flight, politics, smartphones

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