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US could nix plans to permit in-flight cell phone calls

The Department of Transportation is said to be looking at a blanket ban on up-in-the-air chatting.


As airlines mull over the possibility of in-flight cell phone calls, it appears the US government also wants to weigh in on the matter.

Word has it that the US Department of Transportation may be looking to create rules that would enforce a ban on in-flight cell phone calls, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The government agency has been seeking comments on whether it should adopt a rule that would restrict mobile voice calls on flights within, to, and from the US. In its July 2014 Rulemaking Report, the Department of Transportation wrote that it plans to publish a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) about in-flight calls in early December. However, an agency spokesperson said there are no definitive bans in the works yet.

"At this point, there is no final determination as to what the NPRM will say, let alone a final rule," a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told CNET.

While some airlines, like Dubai-based carrier Emirates, already allow in-flight cell phone talking, it's not likely all airlines would want passengers yapping on their phones. Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America have said that they aren't inclined to allow in-flight calls because they'd be distracting and annoying to fellow passengers. However, they have said "silent data transmission," like e-mail and texting, would probably be acceptable.

In-flight rules on gadget use have been steadily changing over the last year. The FAA announced last October that passengers could leave their devices on during entire flights as long as they stayed in airplane mode. And last December, the FCC voted to approve a measure that will open up for public comment a proposal to lift the technical ban on in-flight cell phone use. However, according to the Journal, if the Department of Transportation goes forward with a voice call ban, it could override any FCC rule change.