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FCC: No, We’re Not Going to Allow Cell Phone Calls on Planes

airplane emoji

FCC chairman Ajit Pai released a statement today, essentially putting an end to the idea that people should be able to place phone calls while on an airplane. Previous chairman, Tom Wheeler, considered removing a ban on phone calls while in the air, because he argued that the ban was old and obsolete. Wheeler thought the decision should be up to other agencies, like the Department of Transportation. Pai clearly doesn’t care, because as his statement specifically states, he likes having a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet. 

While this more than likely brings an end to your darkest nightmares of the teenager next to you falling in and out of love with their high school sweet heart over the phone on a coast-to-coast 6 hour flight, there is still a chance that WiFi calling would be allowed. I’d say the chances are slim, but this particular ban was for cellular calls, not those made over WiFi.


Via: FCC (PDF) | USA Today
  • Defenestratus

    Good. I don’t want to hear your damn conversations.

  • Ichigo Uzumaki

    That’s music to my ears. It’s bad enough having people talking loud and yelling on their cellphones in the subway and buses for 30 minutes to an hour. On a 1+ hour flight that would be torture.

  • Mk

    This is great news. Could you imagine being on a 3 hour flight next to a “loud talker” and them being on the phone for the entire flight? Good decision.

    • Defenestratus

      With the ambient noise of a jet engine on the other side of the cabin wall – everyone would be a loud talker. It’s only natural.

    • Cowboydroid

      Dumb comment. Put your earbuds in if you want silence. People still talk and babies still cry even without phone calls. You want the government to ban that too?

  • Armaced

    Are people getting service at 30,000 ft?

    • She_Beast

      Decent number of people can make calls over WiFi.

  • eric sorensen

    I made a call on a Delta plane last week using Project Fi’s wifi calling. Problem was it was so loud on the plane that my wife could barely hear me.

  • Drew Galyen

    I have noise-cancelling headphones that I take on flights, and you could be talking on the phone the entire flight and it wouldn’t bother me. So be my guest. Also, I have made phone calls while on a flight before (thanks T-Mo) using said headphones, and I was very quiet and other than the person right next to me, no one else probably knew I was talking on the phone. If you’re gonna be a huge dick about it, blabbing your trap at 90dB that’s unacceptable, but if you’re going to be quiet and respectful of others, why shouldn’t it be allowed?


    Wait what! Teenagers still talk on the phone? I thought they just Instagrammessaged each other back and forth.

    • badenglishihave
    • krubby

      I have a 14 year old daughter. She sends about 10,000 texts a month, has multiple profiles on multiple social media sites, and I am not sure she knows how to actually dial out and call someone.

      • 11222

        that’s 333 texts a day!

      • DanSan

        I pray for you

  • Dave

    As a frequent traveler, I couldn’t be happier that the status quo remains in place. With that said, I don’t believe it’s within the government’s​ authority to ban voice calls unless there is a significant threat to those traveling on the planes. The FCC Chairmen’s personal preference (of having a moment
    of quiet at 30,000 ft) should be disregarded as bias. It should be up to individual airlines to choose whether voice calls should be allowed on their flights. Some airlines may offer it. Others​ may not. I would pay extra to be on the call-less flights.

    • demarcmj

      This, all of it. I’m all for quite (relatively speaking) flights, but I’m very much against federal mandates due to the personal preference of one guy in a position of power.

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  • Darren Pawlak

    While I get that yes, none of us want to put up with ‘that annoying person on their phone’ in the cramped confines of an airplane (even on a short flight) what irks me is that this means the archaic reasoning will continue to be pushed off as why we can’t use our phone’s in flight.
    i.e. basically, especially on less prestigious airlines flight attendants are still quoting the (as proven to be false) old claim that electronics, especially active cell signals, need to be shut off during take off and landing, and that at cruising they can only be used in airplane mode as it may/will interfere with the plane’s avionics, BUT this has been proven false and that running your laptop, tablet, phone, cd player, gameboy, etc… will not magically send your tuna can with wings plummeting to the ground as we’ve all been scare verbiaged to death over the years (flew a lot over the years…) and the fact that one some airlines they still use that tired and false line is aggrivating to no end to me, as it’s utterly and completely false. My MP3 player is in no way ever going to effect the plane unless it’s actually hiding a mini-emp or something inside instead of my hidden musical guilty pleasures.

  • Andy

    I just flew last week and I noticed they never mentioned putting your phone in airplane mode. This a new thing?

    • Ken

      I also flew last week (what a horrible week to be flying on Delta) and they did say that phones & devices needed to be in airplane mode. Maybe your crew skipped that part of the announcement

      • Rashad

        I’m about to fly Delta now. Yes, they have had a bad week. So far this flight appears to be going as planned.

      • Dave

        Delta is having a bad year…Period. They are not the airline they were last year and years before.

        • badenglishihave

          Not as bad as United!

          • RazorSky

            Oh you really beat that one out of him!

        • Eddie Jr

          Yeah not anymore, United rescued them today.

          • Dave

            Just saw that! Oh Lord!

  • 2001400ex

    1) people forget it wasn’t that long ago every seat on most planes had a phone. 2) the ban is more about a phone connecting to towers at high speed and elevation. Anyone who has tried data or text while flying knows what I’m talking about.

    • michael arazan

      He specifically said That People didn’t want this to happen and that’s why he is not allowing it.

  • Charles Rogers

    Oh, I thought this ban was about some sort of radio interference that wasn’t actually a big deal. Oh well, I didn’t want to try to talk over the screaming babies and puking a*holes anyway.

    • badenglishihave

      If there was really a risk of harmful radio interference they would make everybody check their cell phones in their baggage. The fact that they tell everybody to put their phone into airplane mode and then make almost no attempt to enforce it demonstrates that there is no credible evidence to support that theory.

      • Blake Stanovich

        Plus, mythbusters

  • Gumption24

    The problem is, if the technology (signal) allows it, there’s not a lot of ways to stop it. Will the flight attendants send people to the principal? Confiscate your phone? People are unbelievably entitled nowadays, and do not care about their fellow passengers (see: fat people raising a stink when they have to buy 2 tickets). Allowing the air marshal to write citations would be one thought, but that defeats the purpose of the air marshal.

  • YuCMi

    Noisy infants are bad enough. This was a good decision on the FCC chairman’s part.

    • Brent Cooper

      I agree. My Bose QC 25’s earn their keep using them on planes. Can’t hear a single thing once I have them on.

  • cwillen

    While I can definitely agree that phone calls would be chaos and a bit disrespectful, but I think this overlooks something by simply referring to “phone calls.” This was also relative to mobile data. So if I can use my phone as a hotspot as opposed to the POS in-air WiFi that costs like $30/flight then I’d like to be able to use my phone. But the those companies have a monopoly on it, so I doubt Pai will break it considering he’s the embodiment of “Big Business” interest as it relates to things the FCC can control.

    • Tuxdreamerx

      Have you ever tried to get your phone to connect to a cell tower up in the air? I’ve had no luck.

  • nate_CO
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  • United Bouncer

    “…his statement specifically states, he likes having a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”
    Just another example of Trump nominees in government using their position for personal gain and less for the public good or rational science, data.

    • Ryan

      We would all like having a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet. Not being stuck 18 inches from the next person discussing their genital warts at a volume only required for being 3 rows back from Metallica.

    • Lucky Armpit

      #1 – Has nothing to do with politics
      #2 – Would you want to be stuck next to some chatty person for a 5+ flight that has to shout the entire conversation to be heard over the roar of the engines and the wind speed at 450+ MPH? I don’t think you would.

      • Gumption24

        You think that turd can afford a plane ticket?

      • SoCalPaul

        Up until recently we had phones on the back of the seat in front of you so anyone could make phone calls. It was just so expensive that it deterred people from using them. I don’t remember an uproar when they had these phones. If they are going to allow calls during flights they would need a system on the plane that allowed your phone to connect to their system then connect to the world below from a plane to ground (or satellite) link and they will charge for that and the cost will probably not be worth it to be on long phone conversations. I’ve had my phone “on” for several flights (yeah arrest me…) and I almost never get service after getting to altitude (once over Vegas I remember a bunch of texts & emails coming in). But going phone to ground is not going to be reliable at all.

    • United Bouncer

      And, I thought President Trump promised to de-regulate the government? Shouldn’t doing away with an archaic regulation like no cell phone use on a plane fit the criteria of doing away with regulations so that business can grow jobs and make America great again?

    • DanSan

      Its not a matter of political agenda, its a matter of respect. People nowadays don’t have common sense to keep quiet on an airplane so ya know what, no phone calls.

      • Charles Rogers

        I would care, but people seem to keep bringing babies on planes anyway.

        • DanSan

          So people aren’t allowed to travel with infants now? You can control if you’re being rude and inconsiderate while making a phone call, you can’t control a baby crying. Big difference.

          • Charles Rogers

            This article acts like people have to scream on cell phones. Sounds like only one is an uncontrollable annoyance to me which is obviously the primary problem.

      • michael arazan

        NO. Wheeler was the FCC head and stepped down after Trump.

    • Genkidama

      Ajit Pai is not a Trump nominee. He was there during the Obama administration. He was the minority in the committee.