Phone on the plane? The United States says no

The American FCC refuses to allow telephone calls on planes, less for technical reasons than in the face of opposition from pilots and flight attendants as well as certain passengers.

Smaprtphone Phone Airplane
Credit: Unsplash

The idea had been hovering since 2013: the FCC, the American frequency gendarme, proposed toallow phone calls on planes companies operating on the territory of the United States, as soon as the aircraft reaches an altitude above 10,000 feet. The idea was not revolutionary in itself. In Europe, airlines have had the right since 2014 to authorize, under certain conditions, in-flight telephone calls.

This does not mean that there are many flights offering this possibility in 2020. In fact, in 99% of intra-European flights, it is still impossible to use your smartphone to make calls in the cabin. A change in doctrine on the other side of the Atlantic would thus no doubt have helped the telephone to conquer one of the last spaces where it is still impossible to use it normally.

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US refuses to allow phone calls on planes

But that was without counting many representatives of American pilots, flight attendants and flight attendants have long said their “strong opposition” to the use of smartphones in the cabin to make calls. The latter fear for the comfort of passengers – some could for example find themselves stuck for the duration of a transatlantic flight next to a passenger hanged for several hours on his phone.

A concern shared by some members of the US Congress. Some elected officials go so far as to say thatallowing in-cabin calls could seriously degrade passenger satisfaction. The Trump administration had made opposition to in-flight appeals a real workhorse. The 45th President of the United States appointed Ajit Pai as head of the FCC in 2017, already suggesting that the agency would oppose the change.

Ajit Pai then said: “Getting this proposal off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of calm at 30,000 feet”. Even though the FCC has decided to maintain the ban on cabin calls for reasons of comfort, we note that this is no longer a technical question at all.

Because it is the risk of interference with equipment that has long served as a justification for prohibiting the use of telephones in airplanes. A risk that is no longer really justified on modern airplanes, since their equipment is equipped with armor. Note also that despite this refusal, you will continue to enjoy internet access on board most planes of American airlines.

Access that can also allow you to communicate textually via a messaging application such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage.

Source: Bloomberg