The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would allow passengers to make calls and use their cellular data plans once an aircraft reaches 10,000 feet. Restrictions to phone calls would remain during takeoffs and landings. The FCC is currently in the process of accepting comments in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
The FCC’s proposed rule has met significant opposition from the general public, air carriers and Congress. In Congress, several bills prohibiting the use of phones in-flight have been introduced. A bill entitled the “Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013,” H.R. 3676, was introduced by Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) on December 9, 2013 and referred to the Subcommittee on Aviation on December 10, 2013. The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations that prohibit individuals on an aircraft from engaging in voice communications using a mobile device during a flight in scheduled passenger interstate or intrastate transportation. The bill would, however, allow crew members, flight attendants and law enforcement personnel to make phone calls if needed.
Another bill, similar to H.R. 3676, was introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on December 12, 2013. The “Commercial Flight Courtesy Act” would prohibit an individual from engaging in voice communications through a mobile device while onboard an aircraft in scheduled passenger interstate or intrastate air transportation. The Senate bill makes exceptions for crew members and chartered or private flights.
In other areas, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is opposed based upon the potential for creating an unsafe environment. Several U.S. carriers, including Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United, have publicly stated that regardless of the FCC’s decision on the rule, the carriers will not allow calls in flight. To allow for in-flight cellular use, carriers would have to install expensive equipment and add hundreds of pounds of extra weight to each aircraft.
This Eckert Seamans Aviation Blog is intended to keep readers current on matters affecting businesses and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (email@example.com, 202-659-6665).