The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3 to 2 on Thursday to accept comments on a proposal which would allow passengers on U.S. carriers to make phone calls during flights.
The agency has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which suggests removing the current ban on in-flight phone calls, and asking for public comments on the proposal. The FCC has already received over 400 responses to the potential rule change.
The proposal is centered around the removal of a ban put in place originally due to safety concerns -- but the agency says that modern mobile devices are now not a risk to passenger safety. The FCC also believes that current rules are "outdated," and need to be changed to align with consumer expectations. FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler commented:
"Our job is to be the expert agency on communications tools. It is a rule about technology. It is not a rule of usage."
Airlines, however, are not so keen to take on the FCC's recommendations. The Association of Flight Attendants says that flight attendants, as first responders believe allowing in-flight calls would be loud, divisive, and possibly disruptive -- all factors which could impact on safety. In addition, some critics have argued that allowing phone calls will be irritating and disruptive to other passengers.
U.S. carrier Southwest Airlines has already announced that in-flight calls will not be permitted aboard flights.
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