Lawmaker: Fights could break out on planes unless cellphone calls are banned

Greg Nash

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is warning that unless in-flight cellphone calls are banned, fights could break out at 30,000 feet.

And to some, that is scarier than snakes on planes.

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DeFazio is touting legislation that would prohibit wireless voice services on commercial flights above 10,000 feet. The bill, introduced by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), has attracted 21 backers from both sides of the aisle.

In a press release, DeFazio said, “Imagine being stuck between two passengers who are carrying on personal phone conversations. There is absolutely no escape. How long will it be before a fight breaks out mid-flight?”

He adds that it would be “irresponsible to leave flight attendants on their own to deal with hostile situations. The flight attendants, who are the first responders in the event of an emergency, should never be distracted by a hot-headed passenger who refuses to end an inappropriate conversation.”

The possibility of phoning a friend in the skies has come about because the Federal Communications Commission has opened the door to lifting its ban. New research indicates that the use of cellphones in-flight do not interfere with the plane’s signals, contrary to prior concerns.

In a letter to the FCC, DeFazio and other lawmakers say even if that’s the case, safety concerns remain. Cellphone use could “result in flight attendants having to act as referees to mitigate ‘air rage.’ ”