DOT Panel Backs Change in Policy for In-Flight Mobile Phone Use
The Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection recommended on Wednesday that airlines have the final say on whether passengers may make telephone calls during flights.
The recommendation, which is non-binding, follows a 2013 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to consider lifting the ban on in-flight calls. The news at the time resulted in vocal opposition from frequent travelers, flight attendants, and others, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that he would step in and rule on the issue.
The ban, which dates to 1991, came about because of concerns that the use of mobile phones in flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground and jam signals. The FCC says that this is no longer an issue as a result of the availability of newer mobile communications technology.
Many other countries allow airlines to offer in-flight calling and companies such as AeroMobile Communications and OnAir offer specialized in-flight equipment that safely manages the calls.
Regardless of any changes in policy by the FCC, airlines would still have to determine whether the use of such equipment would interfere with aircraft systems before any restrictions are lifted, according to a DOT notice published in 2014.
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