Goodness Gracious — Please Tell Us The FCC Isn’t Going To Allow Cellphone Calls On Planes

Imagine all these people talking on phones. (frankieleon)

Imagine all these people talking on phones. (frankieleon)

It hasn’t even been a month since the Federal Aviation Administration said it would finally let airline passengers use devices like tablets and phones from gate to gate, but now another federal agency is considering letting loose the hounds of Hades: The Federal Communications Commission is considering allowing travelers to make phone calls in midair.

Yes, that means the lady with the piercing voice in row 17 could be yakking it up for all to hear while the man with the very distinct baritone might be grumbling throughout the flight and your ears will be assaulted at potentially any time. Assaulted, I say!

Moving on, the FCC says it’s time to get hip with the times, and “to review our outdated and restrictive rules,” reports the Associated Press’ travel guru Scott Mayerowitz.

I’m not alone in my grumbling, especially since it’s unclear if there could be some kind of “quiet section” of the plane where passengers wouldn’t be allowed to yap for hours on end.

“The only way I’d be in favor of this is if the FCC mandated that all those who want to use their cellphones must sit next to families with screaming children,” one frequent flier tells the AP. I like that idea.

Those who’ve ever had the bad luck to sit near Mr. or Ms. I’m The Center Of The Universe So You All Have To Hear My Conversation are also worried.

“There are simply far too many people who consider themselves too important to stop talking as a courtesy to other passengers, especially when, given airplane background noise, they’ll probably have to talk louder than usual,” said another passenger, who flies nearly 200,000 miles a year.

And another traveler had a concern we wouldn’t have thought of on our won — are bathrooms going to become a refuge for those seeking privacy?

“Are they going to become the telephone booths for those who want to talk on the phone in private?” he said.

Of course, yes, it’d be nice to be able to check in with your family or work or whatever — but if you can use email during the flight, why not just do that? It’s so much quieter.

There’s hope though for us seeking quietude: Thus far, both American and United Airlines said they’ll see what the FCC ultimately decides before they weigh in on either side, while Delta Air Lines has said passenger feedback for years has shown “overwhelming” support for a ban. JetBlue also seems to side on with silence, as does Southwest Airlines… for now.

“If everyone starts doing it and it becomes culturally acceptable, we’d have to consider it,” said a Southwest spokesman. “But no one thinks it’s a good idea.”

You know how I feel. But how about you?

Loud cellphone talkers next bane of air travelers? [Associated Press]

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  1. Pacer says:

    A number of people in the survey have voted yes if the phones are used in a “quiet section.” Amtrack has a Quiet Car where phone calls are not allowed, but in my experience MANY self-important people frequently use cell phones in the Quiet Car – and the conductors often do nothing about it even when there are complaints.

    Cell phone use in the cattle car environment of a plane isn’t going to work well.

    • Cheapocabra says:

      Came here to say this. People won’t turn off their cell phones in designated emergency room “no cell phone” areas, where LIVES are in the balance. Why would they remove their crania from their anuses for simple courtesy?

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I’m not so much worried about people flaunting the rules, as the law gives the flight crew a lot more legal authority than train conductors (something that has created quite a few Consumerist posts when abused). But I’m old enough to remember when there were “smoking” and “non-smoking” sections of the aircraft, and how little difference that made to those sitting one or three or even ten rows away from a bunch of chain smokers. That’s why I don’t like the idea of setting aside a particular section for an activity that has the potential to annoy much of the rest of the plane.

  2. IrishLad118 says:

    I just can’t see any reason a phone call can’t wait until you’re at least taxiing to a gate. Even if someone calls to say a loved one has passed, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it at 30K feet. And why agitate someone with that kind of news for the duration of a flight (assuming you know they’re travelling)?

  3. PhillyDom says:

    You’d think the road-warrior business types would be the biggest opponents of allowing cell phone calls on planes. As it stands, planes are the last places on earth where one is unreachable by phone. That cell-phone dead zone gives businesspeople the chance to catch up on work without interruption, or to simply relax and unwind.

  4. wsuschmitt says:

    I’ll take being squished in the middle of two overweight people and a crying baby on a coast-to-coast trip over one that allows in-flight calls…