Senators urge ban on in-flight calls

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

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Thursday to encourage him to follow through with the ban the Transportation Department proposed last month.

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“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.