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Will Inflight Phone Calls Soon Be Banned?

The debate over inflight cellphone calls has been largely eclipsed by the debate regarding reclining seats and the Knee Defender. But unlike the seating issue, which is likely to fester indefinitely, the question of inflight calls may soon be resolved.

Flight attendants have voiced their opposition to allowing inflight cell calls. Several airlines have vowed to unilaterally ban the calls. The Department of Transportation is in the process of formulating a notice of proposed rulemaking that would be the first step in banning inflight cell calls outright. The notice will be published in December, followed by a period during which public comments are solicited and considered.

And a no-call bill has been introduced in Congress.

In the latest sign of solidifying opposition to inflight calls, a bipartisan group of 77 House members this week sent a letter to the heads of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FCC, urging a “multi-agency, comprehensive analysis” of “any potential risks so as to ensure passengers and crewmember safety.”

As the following excerpt makes clear, the letter’s unequivocal goal is to convince the addressees that inflight cell calls should be banned:

Passengers making voice calls during flight could impact the ability of crewmembers—flight attendants and pilots—to perform their jobs, keep passengers safe and the cabin environment calm. Arguments in an aircraft cabin already start over mundane issues, like seat selection, reclining seats and overhead bin space, and the volume and pervasiveness of voice communications would only serve to exacerbate and escalate these disputes. The nature of an aircraft cabin would make it impossible for passengers to remove themselves from loud or unwanted conversations and disputes may ensue.

Notice how the reclining seat and inflight calling issues intersect. They are both, among other things, factors that significantly affect the quality of the travel experience. That’s a fuzzy concept, not readily quantifiable, so the lawmakers’ argument focuses more on safety. But a comfortable, stress-free flight is clearly a guiding concern.

The letter concludes: “In light of these serious concerns, we respectfully urge your departments to continue the ban on voice calls and to work collaboratively to ensure that these issues and all other potential ramifications are addressed.”

That’s a letter I’d be happy to sign myself.

Reader Reality Check

What’s a more pressing issue for you: inflight calling or reclining seats?

This article originally appeared on

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