When Will Airlines Allow Phone Calls on Planes?

I field all kinds of travel-related questions and here’s one that pops up now and again: “When will airlines allow phone calls on planes?” The answer is complicated; I’m tempted to say don’t hold your breath but in this ever-changing era of personal electronics and their ever-changing uses, never say never.

Can You Make Voice Calls on U.S. Planes

No. As things stand now, the Federal Aviation Administration says no, while the Federal Communications Commission has said they’re open to the idea but so far nothing has changed. You may use phones on Wi-Fi-friendly planes through the flight and you can do a lot with them but making voice calls remains a no-no.

Can You Make Voice Calls on European Airlines

Apparently, you may be able to, and soon. According to recent reports, a European aviation regulatory body has okayed voice calls but a number of airlines say, not on our flights (or not yet). Over the past few years a handful of international carriers have allowed phone calls on planes.

What the Government Says

70+ plus U.S. Congress men  and women have signed a letter to the Department of Transportation (which is also addressed to the FAA and the FCC) asking that calls not be allowed on planes. Their main concern: Fights over phone calls. If that sounds far-fetched, who would have thought we’d ever  see fights over  reclining seats escalating into diverted flights and dumped passengers? People trying to nap on a flight might get a little irked by non-stop yakking seatmate. Or maybe a lot irked.

What Passengers and Airlines Say

Several airlines have already gone on record as being opposed to voice calls on planes while others appear to be waiting to see what their customers want. If any of those customers are included in the following comments to the FCC, it’s pretty clear what they want.

  • Pasadena, Calif.: I am extremely concerned about the usage of voice communications for violence upon aircraft in flight.”
  • Everett, Washington: “Are you smoking crack? I don’t pay high airfares to sit for 5 hours next to someone talking on their damn phone!”
  • Oak Lawn, Ill.: “Tempers will flare. Allow us to protect our personal space in a place where there is no opportunity to move or otherwise control our environment.”
  • Chicago: “I’m begging you. PLEASE JUST DON’T.”

But enough about them. What do you think? We’d love to hear.

  • More on this topic in Rick Seaney’s latest column for ABC News. See all his columns here.

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Updated: November 7, 2014