The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reversing course on a years-long effort that would have allowed airline passengers to use their mobile phones for voice calls during flights. In a brief statement announcing the decision yesterday, recently appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai said he didn’t believe such a change was “in the public interest.”
Airlines based in a number of countries, including Ireland and the United Arab Emirates, allow passengers to make inflight cellphone calls, while others permit the use of mobile devices only when they’re set to flight mode. Phone calls during flight were originally prohibited due to concerns about potential interference with aviation communications, but technology advances such as satellite communications have reduced those concerns in recent years.
In late 2013, the FCC initiated proceedings to consider allowing U.S. carriers to install on-board equipment to support inflight wireless calls. While the change was supported by some industry organizations, polls have shown a large number of travelers opposed the move.
‘Bad, Bad, Very Bad’
“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” Pai said. “I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”
Industry groups including the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Information Technology Industry Council have voiced support for inflight calling.
In late 2014, the organizations submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) stating, “Rather than an a priori ban that limits airline and consumer choice, the department should permit U.S. airlines to retain the choice of offering applications such as text, mobile data, and…