The government is proposing that airlines be allowed to permit their passengers to make phone calls during flights using Wi-Fi despite complaints from flight attendants and others that the calls could be disruptive.
Barring other changes in FCC regulations, the Transportation Department wants the airlines to tell passengers before buying a ticket whether calls are allowed in flight.
The DOT would only require airlines to let a passenger know in advance if the airline does allow voice calls on its flights. "[We want to] 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".
There's a 60 day window for comment on the initiative, so it's possible that this proposal could die on the vine.
Flight attendants are anxious that allowing calls could cause fights between passengers who are forced to listen against their will.
When the DOT explored the matter in 2014, they found that the idea of other passengers gabbing on cellphones on flights mostly just pissed people off. Flight attendants anxious it would result in violent brawls, like at the end of any Eagles game. But since WiFi is allowed on flights, that means VOIP calls can be made. In 2014, the department issued a request for public comments on the possibility of permitting the calls and the response was overwhelmingly negative.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said Thursday it would continue to press for a complete ban of inflight voice calls.
"It threatens aviation security and increases the likelihood of conflict in the skies". Lower prices and better technology could eventually lead to "a higher prevalence of voice calls and a greater risk of passenger harm", the DOT said. A Delta Air Lines spokeswoman said the carrier has opposed the move for numerous years.
United Airlines said it was reviewing the proposal and would listen to the views of customers and employees. The exceptions were American Airlines and JetBlue; the former shoved any questions off on the DOT and the latter didn't respond to for comment.