Audio Technica bulky noise canceling headphones
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Voice Calls Aboard Airplanes Disclosure: Your Comments Requested by the Department of Transportation

“The airplane is one place where we can be away from inconsiderate loud talkers who think they have important things to say. we don’t need more self absorbed people who think they are special. There is a reason for the phone booth back in the day – a place where you can have a phone call and hear the other person and wouldn’t disturb others.”

As a reader of The Gate, Derek posted the comment you just read in response to this article where I asked whether or not you support passengers placing telephone calls during flights — and an informal poll which was posted with that article showed that 88.46 percent of those readers who participated opposed the use of portable electronic devices used for placing telephone calls during a flight.

Voice Calls Aboard Airplanes Disclosure: Your Comments Requested by the Department of Transportation

Earlier today, the Department of Transportation of the United States announced its proposal to require airlines and ticket agents to disclose in advance — that is, prior to the purchase of an airline ticket at the first time that the flight is offered or identified — to consumers if the carrier operating their flight allows passengers to place voice telephone calls using mobile wireless electronic devices, as allowing voice calls without providing adequate notice could be considered unfair and deceptive.

The rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commission of the United States currently prohibit the use of mobile portable electronic devices using certain radio frequencies aboard airplanes — including for the use of voice telephone calls — but the use of Wi-Fi and other means by which it may become possible to place voice calls are not covered under those rules.

During the summer of 2015, the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection of the Department of Transportation of the United States reportedly approved a recommendation that — if safe and secure — commercial airlines should be able to decide whether passengers can place telephone calls during flights.

At least 77 members of the House of Representatives of the United States jointly sent this letter to the heads of Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission which strongly urged for the continuation of the current prohibition of the use of mobile broadband devices in airplanes during flights — but technology has advanced since then where voice calls can be placed inexpensively and with fewer connectivity issues via Wi-Fi or other means without having an actual telephone.

The proposal for the usage of portable electronic devices to place telephone calls during flights while the aircraft is above 10,000 feet in altitude within the United States was under consideration by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, as I first reported back on Friday, November 22, 2013. This was within a month after the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States and the European Aviation Safety Agency released announcements to allow the expansion of the usage of certain portable electronic devices to be used throughout all phases of a flight — including taxi, takeoff and landing.


I have written in past articles that I would support the used of “texting” using a mobile telephone or other portable electronic device. I might even relent and say that telephone calls can be permitted during a flight for a fee bordering on exorbitant to discourage passengers from engaging in long conversations — but at least still having a mechanism with which a voice call can be placed if absolutely necessary…

…but the last thing that I want during a flight is to hear a one-sided conversation about some business transaction loudly announced by some buffoon who has no respect or consideration for the peace and quiet of his or her fellow passengers — especially if I am attempting to relax after a long day; or if I did not get enough sleep the night before; or if I had experienced some horrific delays. Passengers already experience that potential annoyance aboard airplanes prior to departure from the gate and after landing — as well as at the gate itself and in airport lounges.

You may as well seat me next to a crying baby. It can be that irritating.

The volume of a conversation aboard an airplane may not always be due to the arrogance of a person. There can be a significant amount of ambient noise aboard an airplane during a flight — primarily emanating from the engines or propellors — which can cause a person to speak louder than normal. This may especially be true if the person does not hear well…

…and what about during announcements by members of the flight crew aboard an airplane during a flight? Will those passengers in the middle of their calls be forced to place their calls temporarily on hold or hang up?

possible compromise which I had proposed in the past is to designate a specific area of the aircraft where passengers may use cellular telephones to place calls during a flight — and possibly have the airlines charge an ancillary fee. Those passengers would not be denied the opportunity to place telephone calls; other passengers would not have to deal with any potential etiquette and rudeness issues; and the airline can actually profit in the process.

As for me, I personally do not use a mobile telephone within a public area in general unless absolutely necessary — and even then, I seek out the quietest and most private setting at that moment in a public area.

While having technology readily available for necessary voice communications can be quite convenient — to the point of saving time and money — there are plenty of conversations which can either wait until a better appropriate time in a more private setting; or can be conveyed via quieter means such as texting and e-mail messages.

In the meantime, if you have wanted to officially voice your thoughts to the federal government of the United States, your opportunity has arrived — but at the time that this article was written, there was no set deadline in place as to when the comment period would end…

…and you can read existing comments on this issue posted under docket identification DOT-OST-2014-0002 of the Department of Transportation.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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