US is close to banning in-flight mobile voice calls forever

5 Aug 2014

Just as passengers are beginning to enjoy the ability to surf online during flights, it appears the US government is about to enforce new rules banning voice calls on airplanes.

The US Department of Transportation is understood to be pressing for a formal ban on in-flight calls.

However, according to the The Wall Street Journal, regulators are primarily focused on the disruptive effects of voice calls rather than texting or other data usage.

Such a ban could come into effect as early as December.

Last year, the US loosened restrictions on airline passengers using electronic devices in the air and airliners on both sides of the Atlantic followed suit with data services in airplanes.

Technical rules barring in-flight mobile usage have been in place for more than two decades, due to interference with ground-based cellular networks.

However, this is no longer a concern and it appears banning voice calls on airplanes is more about consideration for other passengers.

It is understood that airlines haven’t given up the ghost on mobile calls in-flight and are considering passenger-friendly options, such as quiet zones or in-flight phone booths.

An unfortunate implication for future passengers might be a premium on flight tickets in these so-called ‘quiet zones’.

Airplane mobile user image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years