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Your 7-year fear of Americans legally getting to make in-flight calls has come to an end

Your 7-year fear of Americans legally getting to make in-flight calls has come to an end


One less thing to worry about when we all start flying again

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The next time you get on a plane, you’ll probably have plenty of new things to worry about, but having to listen to people talking on the phone won’t be one. Way back in 2013, the FCC announced that it would be considering removing a ban on passengers making phone calls once the plane was above 10,000 feet. The proposal was unpopular even within the FCC, with then-Chairman Tom Wheeler saying he would prefer people not be allowed to make calls on a plane.

The FCC originally announced that it would be considering the proposal on December 12 (of 2013), but it took until today to reach a verdict (via Boing Boing): no. The decision cites “strong opposition,” especially among pilots and flight attendants, claiming that the proposal “[failed] to address significant safety and national security concerns.” 

There are also concerns that the proposal would make flights less pleasant to be on. One of the letters referenced by the FCC was filed by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), and says that the proposal “jeopardize[s] safety and comfort on board our aircraft.” This is also the sentiment I’ve gathered from the public comments I’ve read: who wants to add “many people talking loudly on their phones” to the list of terrible airplane noises?

Comment on the FCC’s website asking if the people making the proposal “are smoking crack”
Over 1,300 people commented on the proposal, with many expressing that they weren’t interested in having to hear people talk on their phone.

Even though it took seven years, I’m glad the FCC is taking what seems to be the obviously correct step here. Like the AFPA says, “just because something is technically feasible does not automatically mean it should be considered for public policy.” In other words: even if you can, it doesn’t mean you should.