Senators urge ban on in-flight calls

Senators urge ban on in-flight calls
© Thinkstock

Two senators are urging the Department of Transportation to ban in-flight calls to prevent fights from breaking out among passengers.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate Overnight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Senate Dems demand report from Trump on UK nerve agent attack Feinstein, Harris call for probe of ICE after employee resigns Jeh Johnson: Media focused on 'Access Hollywood' tape instead of Russian meddling ahead of election MORE (D-Calif.) wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE Thursday to encourage him to follow through with the ban the Transportation Department proposed last month.

“We strongly support the agency's efforts to preserve the last vestige of quiet in our busy skies,” the senators wrote in the letter.

The senators, who introduced the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act in December to ban in-flight calls through legislation, say cellphone conversations could create a “hostile atmosphere” for passengers. They said they worry flight crews might have to referee “senseless disputes” between passengers — or even force air marshals to reveal their identities to break up physical altercations.

“We are concerned that the addition of this entirely avoidable aggravation of a confined space will create a possibly hostile atmosphere on commercial flights,” the senators wrote.

This comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to allow in-flight calls, which are currently banned.

The FCC has determined that allowing the use of mobile phones on flights will not disrupt cellular networks on the ground, and as a result a decades-old ban on the calls may be lifted.

But the Transportation Department could ensure that a ban stays in place because of disturbances for other passengers.

“Today’s commercial air passengers often must tolerate a challenging flight experience,” the senators wrote. “Constantly changing security measures, smaller seats, and unexpected fees are inconveniences air passengers have come to accept as the new normal. Adding the burden of listening to a cacophony of personal conversations while confined to a 17-inch seat strikes us as unnecessary.”

The senator's bill banning in-flight calls would only apply to commercial airlines, not private charter flights. Foreign carries would also be exempt, unless they were flying between two U.S. destinations.