That’s it: phones no longer banned from planes – but get on that in-flight wi-fi

We’re finally hitting peak-cockpit. Cell phone calls will be allowed on passenger aircraft starting July 1, after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its ban on in-flight calls last week.

Technically, this should not have come as a surprise. In April, the commission voted to allow passengers to make cell phone calls on domestic flights. The FCC’s vote, however, included the caveat that phones would not be allowed in flight unless they were within the plane’s fuselage.

The aviation industry, understandably, wanted the FCC to go one step further. The International Air Transport Association asked the FCC last week to allow phones to be made on planes without a barrier between them and passengers, but the FCC declined, arguing that such a move would prevent airlines from using callable phones during descent and takeoff.

“Passengers are entitled to a gate-to-gate call experience. If they cannot get to that experience, they will give up and fly by themselves,” Michael Klare, an author who writes about aviation and security issues for Wired, told CNN last week.

Klare added that cell phone calls should be allowed as a form of communication between the passengers and flight attendants, who are often tasked with keeping fellow passengers calm and sleeping.

Ginger Coleman, the chief regulatory affairs officer for the US airline industry, said in a statement last week that she hopes phones on aircraft will go extinct “once commercial airlines find an effective way to handle the issue” in this era of high-speed wi-fi and automated check-in kiosks.

Several airlines, including American Airlines, Delta and United, have said they will wait until the FCC issues final regulations before they allow calls.

Still, there are some worries about noise pollution.

Jeff Hughes, an aviation historian at San Diego State University and frequent flyer, said he plans to talk to his wife on the plane about something mundane – over an intercom or message board, he explains, rather than over a phone. “But you can bet she’ll ask me if I want to talk or not. I won’t want to interrupt. But I can tell you from experience with my wife that she goes to her BlackBerry for this kind of stuff.”

Does anyone believe there is a post-apocalyptic future where you can’t make a phone call over a plane?

• This article was amended on 9 May, 2016. An earlier version incorrectly said that we’ll soon be able to make cell phone calls on international flights. This has been corrected.

Leave a Comment