Should Air Passengers Be Allowed To Make Calls In-Flight?

The United States Department of Transportation has just let it be known that it is considering the allowance for airline passengers to have wi-fi access in the air; that is, of course, according to which air carriers will permit it.

The proposal also contends that airlines and ticket agents alike must disclose—in advance—that consumers will be able to make calls (via WiFi, of course) while in flight.

In a press release, the Department of Transportation comments, “The department believes that consumers would be unfairly surprised and harmed if they learned only after the purchase of a ticket or, worse, after boarding the aircraft that the carrier permits voice calls on its flights. If voice calls are allowed on a flight, the DOT proposal requires disclosure the first time that flight is offered or identified to a consumer. No disclosure is required if the flight does not allow voice calls.”

In addition, US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx notes, “Consumers deserve to have clear and accurate information about whether an airline permits voice calls before they purchase a ticket and board the aircraft. Today’s proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls, as many of them are troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight.”

Foxx also goes on to say that air travelers may not be willing to fly with exposure to voice calls—whether as a disruption to their own privacy or to their comfort—because this is not just an issue of access to flights and other services. This is also a quality control issue. Foxx says, “Today’s proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls.”

On the other hand, Sara Nelson, who is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, calls this “reckless.” She argues that there should be a blanket ban on live calls in-flight. Indeed, flight attendants continue to fear that calls might lead to arguments and fights between passengers who want to make calls and those who doo not want to listen to other people’s conversations.
Nelson says, “It threatens aviation security and increases the likelihood of conflict in the skies. It threatens safety for crews and passengers.”

Accordingly, both Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines have expressed no desire or plans to allow these voice calls in-flight.

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