Comments from public and industry agencies urge DOT to drop proposed rule to allow calls in flight.
With over 8,200 comments received during the open comment period, the majority of stakeholders and frequent flyers in the aviation community are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to drop a proposed rule for calls aboard commercial aircraft. The public comment period ended on Monday, February 13, with comments ranging from pleas to continue a ban on calls from aircraft to those asking for rule makers to not dismiss the idea entirely.
The DOT opened the comment period up in December 2016, after announcing consideration of a rule that would ultimately open the door for cell phone use aboard commercial aircraft. In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined that while using traditional cell phone radio technology could be detrimental to aircraft, the use of cell phones connected to in-flight wi-fi systems could be considered as an alternative. To those ends, the FCC recommended the use of cell phones on wireless networks if airlines provided advance notice to passengers.
Comments came from both the general public and stakeholders in the aviation industry, with many speaking out against the proposed rule. In their statements to the DOT, the Global Business Travel Association asserted their belief that using cell phones would be “detrimental to business travelers and should be banned between the time the aircraft door is closed and the aircraft’s landing.” Similar comments were filed by Consumers Union and numerous members of the public, while in-flight internet provider Gogo expressed their support for a ban on commercial aircraft with an exemption for private aviation.
In support of allowing airlines to allow cell phone calls on aircraft, Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association filed joint comments suggesting that allowing calls aboard flights would not create substantial harm for frequent flyers. In their 19-page brief, the two organizations claim: “The customer response to the cell use policies of these airlines has been uniformly positive.” The two also note that a ban on cell phone use for calls on flights would conflict with airline deregulation. Emirates, which currently allows cell phone use aboard aircraft, also submitted comments in support of opening up commercial aircraft to use phone calls.
As a European manufacturer, Airbus submitted a comment claiming neutrality in the case. The DOT will review the comments collected before making a decision on their proposed rule.