back to article FCC kills plan to allow phone calls on planes – good idea or terrible?

Ajit Pai, chair of US comms watchdog the FCC, has unilaterally decided that no one wants to make cellphone calls on planes, and he killed off a 2013 proposal by the regulator to potentially allow them. In a statement Monday, Pai stated: "I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America's flying public against the …

  1. Number6

    +1

    I agree, phone calls on planes are a bad idea. I have a lot of issues with FCC but I think they (or 'he', given the statement wording) got it right. Either that or make it $100/minute.

    Email and text are fine, they're nice and quiet and don't disturb others.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: +1

      Yes but what the fsck does that have to do with the FCC?

      The FCC's job is to regulate communications technologies/bandwidth/standards for the good of everyone - not decide what the social norms are.

      I don't like milk in coffee but it's not the Food and Drug Administration's job to ban it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: +1

        Yeah, but the milk or lack thereof only affects YOU. Some idiot blathering on end into a cell phone affects the entire captive audience for several nearby. Thus the difference.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: +1

          But, but, but... I thought the Republicans were all about removing onerous regulation that inhibited freedoms?!

          Oh! Sorry, I mis-remembered. Its regulations that inhibit businesses that they have a hate-on for. Since the use of mobile/cellular frequencies (which includes the data needed for e-mail/messaging) would compete with the airlines $£¥ WiFi.

        2. BillG
          Happy

          Re: +1

          If they allow passengers on planes to talk on cell phones, I think fellow passengers will end up strangling them using the free audio headset cords.

    2. Planty Bronze badge

      Re: +1

      And that is the nuts of it, if you are such a high flying exec that micro manages and needs to be in constant contact, use text or email or im. The vast majority however are just annoying bellends that really don't need to phone.

    3. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: +1

      Why stop at planes?

      Forbid phone calls in all mass transport, buses, trains, trams, then you could move on to the public parks, streets, etc.

      In any of those you are sure to annoy someone with your blabbing.

      1. Tony Pott

        Re: +1

        Yep, absolutely sounds like a plan to me.

    4. Swarthy Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: +1

      I agree, phone calls on planes are a bad idea. I have a lot of issues with FCC but I think they (or 'he', given the statement wording) got it right. Either that or make it $100/minute.

      Email and text are fine, they're nice and quiet and don't disturb others.

      It seems that you didn't realize that the FCC controls the use of radio frequencies - and that Voice and data (email and text) use the same radio. FCC Pai says "No" to all.

      Your argument is that planes are cramped, noisy and uncomfortable, and the FCC should keep cellphones banned for the good of the many, and if you want data you should pay for the Airlines' as-crap-as-it-is-expensive data. The equal and opposite argument is that the airlines should sell noise cancelling headphones, and if you want peace and quiet you should buy it from them.

      It almost makes me want to pay for the airline's WiFi, and use WiFi Calling - Just to annoy short-sighted people.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: +1

        The only reason the ban matters is because there will always be some prat who keeps talking on their phone and the flight attendant will do what they can to hold the plane at the gate until they turn it off. All that does is delay everyone unnecessarily and honestly I'd rather the prat babble to the unfortunate soul on the other end of the call than babble in my direction the entire flight expecting a response. To misquote Taylor Swift, a babbler's gonna babble babble babble.

        Typically flights are only an hour or three and unplugging for that brief period shouldn't cause any butt hurt to anyone. If it's a longer flight across a major ocean, there isn't going to be much of a signal and you'll have to ride the parent of the kicking child in the seat behind you no matter what.

        Regardless, the "systems interference" toothpaste scare has been out of the tube for a while now and there's no FCC justification for banning it. Pai should just let this one go as it's just more of the nanny state creeping in. Further it's the worst kind of nanny statism since it's far and above over-reach for the FCC to enact a social behavior control not for technical reasons but because someone somewhere might be annoyed on a flight. Now then, try giving the baby a little schnapps and maybe it'll stop crying.

      2. Number6

        Re: +1

        @Swarthy:

        It almost makes me want to pay for the airline's WiFi, and use WiFi Calling - Just to annoy short-sighted people.

        I seem to remember that this is against the terms and conditions in Wifi access, at least the ones I've read.

        I have a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They're good at removing general noise and the turbine whine from the engines but conversations tend to get through quite well unless you're listening to something. I do wonder actually how good a phone is at picking up a wanted voice from the background noise in an aircraft - imagine the fun and games when you've got two people in adjacent seats making phone calls at the same time and shouting to try and be heard over the general noise and each other.

        Don't forget that you're sitting in an aluminium tube travelling very fast and well above the antenna coverage of most phone masts. I know GSM has speed limits, relating to the rate of change of phase advance of packets, LTE may have something similar. Attempting to access the outside network directly is not going to be without its problems - you'll be audible to many cell towers, albeit at low signal level because they're not looking up, further exacerbated by the screening effect of the metal around you (even a 787 has a conductive skin) attenuating the signals so using the aircraft-supplied gateway is going to give a much better performance. If you're over the ocean then there is, as far as I'm aware, a distinct lack of cell towers below, making use of the aircraft gateway even more important.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Reg SF office poll

      I'm surprised that only half wanted to use their phones in flight, given that more than half are jerks.

  2. Grunchy

    Cellphones are only allowed on private jets

    Rude people on public jets shouldn't talk on cell phones, nor should they talk to their Siri & other helper services, and furthermore shouldn't be allowed to talk AT ALL.

    You'll all sit back (up) & zip it. Press the call button if you want something, curs.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Cellphones are only allowed on private jets

      "Press the call button, and communicate your needs in mime if you want something" - FTFY

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cellphones are only allowed on private jets

        Word. In fact, Henry Rollins proposed a solution to this as early as in 1998, in Airport Hell... If making calls on planes gets allowed, we MUST get the sit-the-fuck-down-shut-the-fuck-up-light as well.

  3. SirWired 1

    Yes, this would be bad, but it shows what a hypocrite Pal is

    I agree that I can think of few things more annoying than some blowhard marketroid yakking on the phone while I'm confined in a small metal tube hurtling above the ground.

    But this also shows what a hypocrite Pal is; when it comes to being a lapdog for his corporate masters, nearly any regulation at all is too loose; he's all too willing to strip anything even vaguely resembling consumer protections. But when it comes to HIS precious hide being annoyed on an aircraft, he's willing to do whatever it takes.

    1. ratfox Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Yes, this would be bad, but it shows what a hypocrite Pal is

      He's not a hypocrite; he's just decided to completely go against everything his predecessor proposed.

  4. David 132 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Thank goodness.

    I never thought I'd type these words, but: I agree with Ajit Pai on this.

    (now excuse me for a moment while I try not to throw up)

    Being on a plane is unpleasant enough without having to put up with other peoples' calls. What with the veal-crate-level legroom / bawling kids / flatulent/overweight neighbors / being nickel-and-dimed for everything the beancounters can re-brand as a "premium add-on" (breathable air, a seat, etc), and now apparently the risk of being beaten up and dragged bleeding off the plane if you don't voluntarily volunteer to voluntarily bounce to a later flight...

    If it's THAT urgent that you talk to someone, connect to the inflight wifi and send an email.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thank goodness.

      "If it's THAT urgent that you talk to someone, connect to the inflight wifi and send an email."

      How do you send an e-mail to someone that ONLY has a landline phone, though? It could be the spouse with a sudden medical condition you're worried about (thus why you're on the flight rushing home).

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Thank goodness.

        "It could be the spouse with a sudden medical condition you're worried about"

        It could well be, but the chance of that actually being that truth, as opposed to some blowhard who uses the phone like on The Apprentice (held on palm, shouted at) is going to be vanishingly small.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Thank goodness.

          But NOT ZERO, correct?

      2. Tony Pott

        Re: Thank goodness.

        Seriously? You know many people like that? I don't think my contacts contain a landline number for any individual (as opposed to an organization).

        And before you accuse me of being a millennial wedded to mobile technology, I'm 60 this year.

      3. muddysteve

        Re: Thank goodness.

        "How do you send an e-mail to someone that ONLY has a landline phone, though? It could be the spouse with a sudden medical condition you're worried about (thus why you're on the flight rushing home)."

        You can text to a landline. There is an automated system that reads it to you.

        1. fobobob

          Re: Thank goodness.

          I've never been on anything that was bigger than 5 seats across that didn't have at least some seat-back phones. Expensive, but they did exist. Then again, it's been several years since I've flown anywhere, so maybe they sent them off to wherever all the other payphones went.

          1. quxinot Silver badge

            Re: Thank goodness.

            It could be different, if it was possible for anyone to talk on a phone without shouting into it.

            Nevermind the apps and gigs and whatever. How about a phone with a mic that doesn't require shouting? Or is this more along the lines that morons will shout at things two inches from their face even when not required?

      4. Vic

        Re: Thank goodness.

        It could be the spouse with a sudden medical condition you're worried about

        If it's a genuine medical emergency, pretty much all aircraft are fitted with radio that will work at any stage of the flight that a phone will.

        If it's not sufficiently important to use the aircraft radio systems - it's probably not a real emergency after all...

        Vic.

      5. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Thank goodness.

        One small problem with the sudden medical condition issue. You're on a plane and there's little to nothing you can do other than find out that you're wasting your time because they are recovering or make you more antsy because they're slipping. In either case you're only likely to make the flight worse for everyone else as you drum your fingers, tap your foot, or otherwise fidget.

        The best you could do is relay that they have an allergy, say penicillin, but since you've had time to get to the airport and book a flight that should really have already taken place.

      6. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Thank goodness.

        "How do you send an e-mail to someone that ONLY has a landline phone, though?

        Wow!

      7. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Thank goodness.

        "It could be the spouse with a sudden medical condition you're worried about (thus why you're on the flight rushing home)."

        While you want to be up to date, there isn't anything that you can do and you may want to be in a non-public space if the news is bad. The last thing the rest of us want to hear is your volume up to 11 lament or screams at the hospital receptionist to give you more information.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it's THAT urgent that you talk to someone

      Fully agree with you, but in your list of flight niceties you forgot about the broken entertainment systems and the overtly friendly seat neighbor who wants to see what you're reading.

      Also, I guess that most people that really, really, really absolutely need to make an inflight phone call does that to convey the message "Hi, I'm in a plane. No, a plane. A PLANE. Shit. (repeats)"

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: If it's THAT urgent that you talk to someone

        "the overtly friendly seat neighbor who wants to see what you're reading."

        Since the seats have been downsized to the point where you are sitting in their lap, it's hard not to see what you are reading. It's the bugger in the seat behind an to one side of year that is looking through the gap at your laptop screen anyway since the angle is better. Put on some noise canceling headphones with a good audiobook and fade out is my recommendation.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some people

    It would be just like it is on the ground; many could give a care less if they are disturbing or otherwise infringing on others' space..

  6. Roger B

    Huh, look at that I'm agreeing with something from Trump's FCC, knock me down like a Doctor on a United Airlines flight, who'd of thought it!

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Praise the Lord

    While the technical issues are long gone, it is annoying enough to have hear someone babble on a cellphone on the ground. To have to listen to some moron who thinks they are so important they have the right to disturb everyone else trapped in the plane is not my idea of a pleasant flight (an oxymoron yes). They can stifle it for awhile for the rest of us sardines.

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Don't suppose he can ban them on trains as well can he?

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      For a FCC ban on phone calls in trains to make any difference, there would have to be two people in the same train car at once. What are the odds of that happening?

    2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Maybe he can't, but

      On the trains that run along the US NE corridor, there is a "quiet car". I have never seen anyone expelled by a conductor, but I have received the hairy eyeball from other passengers when I happened to receive a call from the office and didn't exit quickly enough.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Trains

      "Don't suppose he can ban them on trains as well can he?"

      On a train you are more likely to be able to move away from a self-important chatterer. There are sometimes "phone free" cars. On a plane, you are expected not to budge from your allocated 1/4 sqM and the person sitting next to you is closer than you might be to your spouse when siting on the couch watching TV. (Might be different when watching movies).

  9. Not also known as SC
    Meh

    Isn't this what sms was invented for?

    So loud mouthed gits could communicate without disturbing every one else? Pity there is no way of blocking voice calls while allowing text messages to be sent. (I know email could be used but I can only guess how much they'd try to charge for the data).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Pity there is no way of blocking voice calls while allowing text messages to be sent.'

      Network / cell tower operators can control this. Its just a switch, especially during outages / emergency crisis etc. But will they let people send / receive texts after this ruling though? Not in favor of calls. But texts can also be pretty annoying if you're seated near an SMS junkie with constant traffic and phone volume set to 11 etc.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: 'Pity there is no way of blocking voice calls while allowing text messages to be sent.'

        In NY it is illegal to interfere with a phone signal. I'm thinking that any cell tower that was shut down for a non tech or terrorism reason would be cause for lawyering up. No-one wins.

    2. fobobob

      Re: Isn't this what sms was invented for?

      By only allowing cell data to move for a few (perhaps 10) seconds every minute or two, you could accomplish this.

  10. Lee Mulcahy

    I don't know about y'all, but I find that there are people who can (and do) hold annoying, loud conversation with or without a cell phone. I find Pai's arrogance extremely disconcerting. If he were to announce these decisions as coming from the FCC, not from him directly (using the first person), it might be more palatable.

    This is more regulation from the govt; I was under the impression that Republicans wanted minimal interference.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      The federal government should only concern itself with the safe operation of the plane. If it is shown that cell phones do not pose a threat to the plane, there is no further need for the ban. It doesn't matter what flight attendants and pilots think if their reasons are not about safe operation of the plane, and the feds definitely should not be in the business of regulation of moments of quiet at 30,000 feet. If it's not a safety issue, it should be up to the airlines to decide how they want to handle it; things like passenger comfort and amenities are their domain anyway.

      Republicans are supposed to be for limited government, but most of them are creatures of the establishment, and functionally no different than Democrats. Their rhetoric sounds a lot different, but they do the same stuff once in office. We're effectively a one-party state in the US.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        But can't holding loud conversations in a cramped tube of metal with over 100 people in it ALSO become a matter of safety, especially if people ACT UP, like has happened plenty of times without any cell phone aggravation?

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Just wait

        for the inevitable

        Phone call to a phone triggered bomb on the plane. {see icon}

        Then all planes will have to become flying faraday cages.

        Bliss for those who can exist without their social media drug fix.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Just wait

          That won't help because both devices will be IN the cage now. Besides, the plane's metal shell acts like an attenuator already.

          Besides, the proponents will just say wrap the cargo hold or containers in a Faraday cage and you solve the cell phone bomb problem while still allowing conversations.

      3. Pirate Dave Silver badge
        Pirate

        "If it is shown that cell phones do not pose a threat to the plane, there is no further need for the ban."

        Agreed. IMHO - If the FCC doesn't have an actual technical reason for the ban having to do with radio emissions or radio interference, then they should drop their ban and let the FAA be the deciding agency.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    It won't matter

    So long as people have internet access, they can make VOIP calls via Skype or whatever, unless the airline goes out of their way to try to block them. Annoying jerks will have their way in the end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It won't matter

      I think they already DO block VoIP calls, usually by blocking the ports and restricting bandwidth.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the chief of the FCC is basing his decision on input from flight attendants and pilots? Isn't that the FAA's job? As in, exactly what the proposals were recommending? He's not even pretending any more.

  13. Mephistro Silver badge

    Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

    And the solution to most of the issues pointed out by fellow commentards would be to ban talking to any passenger's electronic device, be it phone calls, VOIP, Siri and relatives, and even fecking voice recorders.

    Enforcement would be easy: any passenger caught breaking the rules would be warned just once, and if they don't comply immediately, they should be reported to the destination airport by radio, and find at their arrival a law enforcement official waiting for them with a humongous fine, to be paid immediately.

    Alternatively, they could be thrown out of the plane. 8^)

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

      Alternatively, they could be thrown out of the plane. 8^)

      I've been trapped on a plane more than once with some salesdroids. A cell phone, a few drinks, and that's all you hear. They'll even drown out the jet engines, pilot announcements and crying babies. I can get behind this idea....

    2. dan1980

      Re: Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

      To be honest, what I think is really needed - phones or no - is for the pilot and the attendants to include, as part of their standard announcements, the admonition to respect other passengers and keep their noise to a minimum, for the comfort of all.

      Most people are fairly considerate and will be generally quiet and polite. A small percent just don't care about social conventions, even when they are pointed out and will be disruptive and just don't care whether it impacts others.

      Still others are inconsiderate but can be easily shamed into doing the right thing - and these are exactly the people such announcements would target: those who rely on no one actually calling them out.

      All it takes to noticeable improve the average comfort and enjoyment of flights for everyone is to have the flight staff request - and periodically remind - passengers to be quiet and considerate.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

        "Still others are inconsiderate but can be easily shamed into doing the right thing - and these are exactly the people such announcements would target: those who rely on no one actually calling them out."

        And then there are those who think rules are made to be broken. Tell them not to do something and they'll just do it even more.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

          As for the title header, did anyone tell Pai a broken watch could only have a minute hand, making it impractical as a timepiece, full stop?

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Ajit Pai: "Even a broken watch..."

      They could also have all of their luggage "deep searched" while they watch.

  14. dan1980

    "Ajit Pai, chair of US comms watchdog the FCC, has unilaterally decided that no one wants to make cellphone calls on planes."

    Wrong. There are people who would love to make calls on planes. They are called douche bags and their defining characteristics are selfishness and a lack of consideration for the comfort of others.

    How I hate them.

  15. lnLog

    erm,

    a lot of planes have/had been fitted with handsets, since the mid/late nineties if memory serves. If you swiped your card you could make phone calls. So this is hardly an issue about noisy conversations.

    1. dan1980

      Re: erm,

      @InLog

      I get what you're saying but can you really see no difference between personal mobile phones and handsets you use your credit card for - at eye-watering rates?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: erm,

        Early 90s - Die Hard 2

    2. 2Nick3

      Re: erm,

      At $5.00/minute you needed to be a rich jerk to make a call with those, or have someone else paying for it. I had to call on one once, having been paged for a Sev1 issue just before boarding and having a VP tell me being on a flight wasn't an excuse to be unavailable. The sound quality was horrible (like an old analog cell phone at the range limit from a tower), it dropped the call a few times (like an old analog cell phone at the range limit from a tower), and the 65 minutes of calls came to $325 (like an old analog cell phone at any range from a tower).

      The drinks for the two other passengers in my row was another $16. When forced to be a jerk you can at least own up to it.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: erm,

        OK, so who paid the bill in the end? And I wonder how the rest of the board felt about that level of expense (I think the modern equivalent would be if the VP demands guaranteed 24/7 access regardless of your location to request something like an Iridium phone).

  16. Nolveys Silver badge

    Public Cell Conversations

    People tend to phone me if their stuff is broken and they need it fixed immediately (probably because I tell them to only phone me if their stuff is broken and they need it fixed immediately). On those rare occasions when I am in public and the issue is actually important I skulk off into the corner and, while hunched over, speak as quietly as possibly and end the conversation as quickly as I can...

    ...and I still feel dirty.

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Holmes

    Easy solution...

    Just ask them to step outside to make the call:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmQnEyiGdGQ

    1. Chairo
      Devil

      Re: Easy solution...

      Alternatively ask them politely to leave the plane before the flight:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXVWoe7KNzg

      Or just grab some random guy and throw him out, because...

  18. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Is this a good time to pitch my proposal to put all passengers in suspended animation for the duration of the flight?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Probably not. SOMEONE will come along with a medical condition that precludes being suspended with fatal consequences. AND he or she will be of critical importance to someone else.

  19. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    A lot of the time on a plane I am trying to work or get some rest. Its a lot harder to do either of those when the guy next to me is trying to conf call or talk to his brother-in-law about where to meet after the plane lands.

  20. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Headmaster

    There seem to be two main sorts of mobile phone users

    - those who feel the details of their pointless business activities are so important that they should be shouted all over the public arena, and

    - those who can't wait to tell our Sharon what our Kev said last night

    People actually using the phone as a means to communicate *important meaning* are so rare as to be invisible. In general, using a phone in public is the audible equivalent of writing graffiti on the walls. With poor spelling and grammar.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: There seem to be two main sorts of mobile phone users

      You forget Type 1B: the type who have no choice but to keep harping about their pointless business activities...because they're being ordered to do it from up top.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not? What could possibly go wrong?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27aVPqpnL7Y

  22. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Megaphone

    In B4 Dom Jolly

    I'M ON THE PLANE!!

  23. IglooDude

    "it should be up to the airlines to decide how they want to handle it; things like passenger comfort and amenities are their domain anyway."

    And they've done SO well with that so far, eh? They've handled it by (prepare to be shocked) monetizing it, 100% of the time.

    Which means, I predict, that if the FCC allows inflight calling that they'll charge extra to allow individuals to make calls inflight, and if you're lucky, they'll charge extra to seat someone in a "quiet row" where calls are not allowed, so if you don't want to pay more you'll have the worst of both worlds: not able to make voice calls but having to listen to your seatmate chatter away, and them chatting louder to be heard about the high ambient noise level to boot.

    But... by the same token that I don't like marijuana but want it legalized and prefer the fairer sex but support same-sex marriage and don't like annoying gits but am generally opposed to their murder, in this case I don't think the FCC or FAA should be regulating inflight cellular usage if it's no longer a safety issue. And really, isn't sitting belted on a plane the safest place on the planet to BE distracted, unless you're the pilot?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Which means, I predict, that if the FCC allows inflight calling that they'll charge extra to allow individuals to make calls inflight, and if you're lucky, they'll charge extra to seat someone in a "quiet row" where calls are not allowed,"

      Airlines would be called out on such things as False Advertising because the nature of the beast makes quiet rows practically impossible without expensive and heavy additional infrastructure to provide for soundproofing. Anything you can try to apply to cell phone calls you can apply to smoking, and last I checked smoking is universally banned on all US-connected flights and then some.

      "And really, isn't sitting belted on a plane the safest place on the planet to BE distracted, unless you're the pilot?"

      No, it's one of the worse places you want to be because you're essentially being restrained, and that makes plenty of people snippy. Or haven't you heard of the spate of in-flight altercations lately that have forced reroutes (meaning safety became an issue)?

  24. Christoph Silver badge

    Separate seating class

    How about a separate SHOUTINGINTOYOURPHONE class sound-insulated from the rest of the plane? Like the old smoking sections on transport.

    As for people with unexpected emergency calls - just exactly how often does that really happen? (And how is it dealt with at the moment?)

    The very low probability of such calls is not sufficient justification for everyone on every flight to be subjected to a non-stop stream of SHOUTED babble.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Separate seating class

      That would add weight to the plane and wouldn't necessarily address the issue due to the crowded nature of the plane. People would STILL be able to hear just as people would still be able to be caught in secondhand smoke.

      "As for people with unexpected emergency calls - just exactly how often does that really happen? (And how is it dealt with at the moment?)"

      Used to be done with an in-flight phone but what if there isn't one and the caller/receiver is being harassed by an overbearing boss who demands permanent on-call status regardless of situation (cited earlier)...or else?

  25. 101

    Prisoner Air Transport Rules

    True, the government should not be involved.

    The issue is about MANNERS. Who wants to listen to dozens of people blabbing away about their pathetic, useless, failed lives in the air? Airlines could issue a rule:

    Talking on phone...= not OK.

    Texting, surfing, etc, with headphone = OK

    (In light of the recent United debacle, airlines could forcefully muzzle anyone violating the rules, per the contract thingy. )

  26. MBD1

    So Airline phones to be banned too?????

    Why just cell phones - this logic would ban all phones - including the premium priced calls made with airline phones. Strange that this was omitted from "his" opinion, perhaps the airlines left this off his instructions, funny oversight, I wonder why??

    He obviously attended the United Airlines charm school - where passengers are treated less well than Fedex or DHL parcels!

    Republicans -making America Grate!

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: So Airline phones to be banned too?????

      "Why just cell phones - this logic would ban all phones - including the premium priced calls made with airline phones."

      The premium priced seatback phones make random babbling and pointless business calls self-limiting in comparison with smart phones that have unlimited talk with a nominal flat rate connection fee imposed by the airline. If the airline was required to charge $7.50/minute for passengers to make phone calls, only rich buggers in first class or those with very real needs will be on their phones and then only for a limited amount of time. You aren't going to be privy to what Aunt Pam told our Kev, the extended remix version.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    United Airlines

    I beleive United airlines are happy with this Ban and want to prosecute everyone who filmed the Denied Boarding Incident the other day for using electronic devices when not allowed to.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: United Airlines

      The FCC can't get involved here because the incident occurred pre-flight, still at the gate. Under the current rules, it's OK to use electronics in this phase because the plane officially hasn't set off yet; they're still officially on the ground. I don't think the FAA and the FCC really want to argue over who has the overriding jurisdiction at this point.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: United Airlines

      "I beleive United airlines are happy with this Ban and want to prosecute everyone who filmed the Denied Boarding Incident the other day for using electronic devices when not allowed to."

      I don't think United would mind so much of those people also recorded the discreet and polite requests from the air crew for the passenger to leave and the complete dialog with security before he was bodily removed from the plane. I'll put money down that the security officers were initially respectful when they first approached him, but that doesn't make for good vid so we'll only see that footage if anybody bothers to post it from the trial proceedings.

  28. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    why stop there?

    I'd be happy if they filled the cabin with knockout gas for the duration , but they'd never do it as they'd miss all those chances to weedle money out of you

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: why stop there?

      ahhh, the "Sleep Field" from The Fifth Element. I wouldn't mind that at all. It would be much better than fighting through the cramps from too small of a seat.

  29. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Have to say I agree about not having fucktards yelling witless nothingness into thier phones while on a flight.

    But I rarely fly any more. Dimwit bread and circuses "security" procedures that do nothing to secure the plane and yesterday's elloquent lesson in what rights a passenger actually has have pushed me into taking the long way if possible and driving.

    As many bags as I like, with whatever I care to put in 'em, shoes on as long as I want them on and decent food along the way.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      But what happens if you want to jump an ocean? It takes weeks by ship.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        It's nearly impossible to travel by ship anymore. Cruises are often round trips and those that aren't only stop at horrible places that have evolved into machines to fleece people.

        It doesn't take "weeks" to go from NY to the UK. It's about one week, but you will be hard pressed to find more than a few of the voyages each year and they can be expensive. It's tricky to find freight ships that accept passengers, but they are much more frequent. I just found out that they can carry up to 12 passengers without a ship's doctor and there are other restrictions that you have to work with.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          Point is, if you want to go transoceanic in any practical sense, you basically have to bend over. Same if you want to take a long trip, like across the United States from New York to San Francisco. It may be cramped and limited, but you can cross the country in a plane in ~5-6 hours. Any other way and you're looking two days at least, and for many time is more important than money due to hectic lives.

  30. Bucky 2

    Carrot and Stick

    I think cell calls should be allowed on planes. But if the caller can't keep his voice down, any passenger should be legally allowed to take the phone away, and beat the guy unconscious.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Carrot and Stick

      Yeah, and then we get the situation where the caller is a boxer/bouncer/martial artist. He/she gives you "the look" and you wonder if it's worth it...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    I would even be happy with United Airlines levels of customer service...

    ...in return for keeping no phone calls on flights. The world is full of stupid self-entitled narcissists blabbing inanities into phones, and us normal people need somewhere away from the horrors of a three hour "yeah but I'm like... and he was like... and I was like reeeeeeeaaaally O.M.G!" public torture session. If these people are allowed to use phones on planes, then I should be allowed to persuade them not to without fear of punishment.

    If I had it my way, there'd be no children under the age of 20, no electronic devices and no conversations whatsoever on flights. No exceptions.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I would even be happy with United Airlines levels of customer service...

      "If I had it my way, there'd be no children under the age of 20, no electronic devices and no conversations whatsoever on flights. No exceptions."

      So what do you tell FAMILIES going on vacation across the ocean? Or those people BOUND by overbearing bosses who DEMAND permanent on-call status?

  32. dsralston

    This is just silly

    Phone calls have been able to made on airplanes ever since VOIP. I have them all the time..

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: This is just silly

      You sure? I thought airlines BLOCKED the likes of Skype.

  33. Florida1920
    Headmaster

    Avoid riots

    In 2007 I was traveling by train somewhere in the UK. I sat in the Quiet Car, where some bonehead proceeded to get talking on his cell phone. The other passengers didn't stay quiet for long. You start letting people who MUST SHOUT when talking on the phone to use them on planes and the carpets will be soaked with blood. That's the best reason to ban them. Except for me, of course.

  34. ma1010 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Follow the Money

    This is Pai, Mr. "Make corporations bigger profits at any cost." It's all about big corporate money, and that's what he's been since day one. This is just more of the same.

    If you let everyone use their cell phones, then there's no reason for those expensive pay phones on planes. But with cell phones banned, anyone who wants to make a call from a plane has to use one of those phones. And pay dearly. More $ for big corporations, which is what Pai is all about.

  35. Sir Sham Cad

    We know what'll happen if it was allowed.

    I can see occasions where there may be a genuine need to make a call on the flight. Arranging pickup, checking up on a sick relative/friend etc... but that's not what'll happen. I'll be stuck next to a suit who will have the phone to his/her ear the whole time, loudly discussing work matters, dialling into conference after conference, shouting because they can't hear over the engine noise while a drunk a couple of rows behinds howls into her phone like a banshee.

    No thanks.

  36. Herby Silver badge

    Technical reasons....

    While there are MANY social reasons why cell phones shouldn't be on airplanes (many enumerated here in the comments), there are technical reasons why it isn't a good idea.

    The "interfering with air navigation" excuse sounds nice, but it really doesn't hold any water. No way reasonable navigation aids (well designed ones) should be susceptible at all. On the other hand, the cell towers are another matter. You see there are a couple of reasons. First, most of the cell tower antennas point horizontal (and a bit downward) to pick up terrestrial based cell phones (well, that's where they are). They don't send their main signal "up to the sky" as it would be wasted. Secondly, cell phones in the sky broadcast (and receive) their signal in an omnidirectional pattern, so in the air they would be in contact with LOTS of cell towers line of sight. Since the cell towers normally signal "outward" not "upward" they need to increase their power to even get to the flying high cell phone, which causes interference with other cell towers, limiting capacity of many towers. In addition, your little cell phone must increase its power in its attempts to communicate as well, and that drains your battery faster.

    So, for a bunch of reasons, both technical and social, you should turn off the damn phone and chill out.

    I also take notice of the 60 minutes (US News show) piece last Sunday indicating that lots of people are making cell phones "addictive" to get more usage. Maybe that's why people want to use them in planes, they gotta feed their habit. (*SIGH*).

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Technical reasons....

      But airplanes have metallic shells. Wouldn't that attenuate radio signals somewhat, which is why you usually can't get a lock with a GPS device in a plane unless you're next to the window (firsthand experience)? Plus by placing a picocell on board, all the cell phones focus on it and stop broadcasting willy-nilly?

  37. cd / && rm -rf *

    'Ajit' rhymes with 'eejit'. How apposite.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/eejit

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange items...

    Re: "a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet."

    Um... Mr. Pai has a strange concept of a moment of quiet.

    Re: 9/11 and security as a reason to reconsider relaxing the rules: Yea, a 'terrist gets onto a flight with a bomb he smuggles aboard, and is planning on detonating his own boom with a cell phone, but curses! FCC rules prohibiting talking on a cell phone will stop him. Huh? If, by some strange stretch of the imagination, a suicidal terrorist needed to talk on a cell phone to achieve his mission, wouldn't he either 1) use a bluetooth or wired headset to make an inconspicuous call or 2) just make the damn call, knowing that by the time the cabin staff noticed the phone, they would be distracted by the plane blowing up.

    It's kind of like the stories of the security theater droids making lactating women taste the breast milk they were carrying through security due to the no liquids rules. Seriously, if she were smuggling an explosive compound and was willing to blow herself up on the plane, wouldn't she be prepared to take a small swig of a potentially cancer-causing chemical disguised as milk?

  39. StheD

    I haven't seen a phone handset in a seatback for easily four or five years now, here in the States. When they were there they were hardly ever used because of the cost reasons already mentioned.

    If I were in industrial espionage I'd be opposed to this rule. Just hop on to the San Jose - Austin or Dallas flight, sit in first class, get your laptop out, and make notes. I've already seen plenty of confidential info on laptops opened in front of me already.

    I'd be maybe for allowing them in first class as a kind of tax or annoy the rich scheme.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "I haven't seen a phone handset in a seatback for easily four or five years now, here in the States."

      INCLUDING in First Class?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disappointing Finish

    Overreach. Let's ban kids under 5 and any other annoying, sniveling demographic while we're at it. Those kids are CHOOSING to interrupt the nap I'm trying to enjoy while the turbulence has me in a nice state of halfway-arousal.

  41. wsm

    Actually...

    the most annoying thing would be for the airlines to make you pay for a non-phone section. Business travelers who want to avoid those capable of making calls would be charged extra.

    The middle-eastern airlines already have outstanding facilities for business class on long flights. Maybe they could just install a phone booth for those who absolutely have to call. Domestic airlines are far too common to give up a seat for that kind of thing.

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