SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

February 22, 2014

Cellphone calls on planes? Don't ask the feds

(Continued)

Delta Air Lines told the government last year that 64 percent of its passengers indicated that the ability to make phone calls in flight would have a negative impact on their onboard experience.

The FCC has already received more than 1,200 public comments on its proposal, almost all of them opposed to lifting the ban.

“Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to be the involuntary audience of another passenger’s telephone conversation,” one commenter said yesterday. “It is the equivalent of torture to be forced to listen to the incessant prattling of a seatmate, compounded by the impossibility of escape.”

Among the most ardent opponents of lifting the current ban are flight attendants, who worry that phone conversation will spark arguments between passengers and even acts of violence.

“Allowing passengers to use cellphones during commercial flights will add unacceptable risks to aviation security, compromise a flight attendant’s ability to maintain order in an emergency, increase cabin noise and tension among passengers and interfere with crewmembers in the performance of their duties as first responders in the cabin,” said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, responding to the department’s proposal. The association represents nearly 60,000 flight attendants at 19 carriers.

Congress, inhabited by some of the nation’s most frequent flyers, is also getting into the act. Lawmakers are pushing legislation to require transportation regulators to implement a ban on calls.

The current FCC ban was adopted in 1991 based on concern the calls planes might interfere with cellular networks on the ground, but technological advances have resolved those worries. In 2005, the FCC cleared the way for airlines to begin offering Wi-Fi in flight.

Last October, the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates safety, dropped its ban on the use of personal electronic devices such as tablets, music players and smartphones to send email, to text or to surf the Internet during takeoffs and landings. The agency said it is no longer worried the devices will interfere with cockpit electronics. However, phone calls during takeoffs and landings are still prohibited.

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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

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