Should the government ban cellphone calls on airplanes?

The Daily Dot:

The government is planning to issue a proposal that could ban people on flights from either sending or receiving voice calls on their mobile devices—using those devices for non-voice activities, such as playing online games or tweeting about the crying baby in the back row, would likely still be allowed.

To answer the question posed in the headline: Hell yes.

Flying is already a horrible process. Let’s not make it worse by being forced to listen to one side of a conversation for hours on end while trapped in an uncomfortable seat inside a metal tube.

  • Adam Fisher-Cox

    Calls should unquestionably be banned, but should the government be in charge of that? It’s not a safety regulation, just a common courtesy one. The airlines should ban this as a customer service measure.

    • James Hughes

      I agree. Let each airline ban or not ban and you can choose which airline to fly on. If you want to use your cell phone, choose the airline who allows it. Otherwise choose the one who won’t allow it. Customer choice based on preference. I don’t want the government deciding what is and is not acceptable behaviour in, what seems to me at least, a grey area as far as etiquette is concerned.

      • MacsenMcBain

        What they said.

        I would personally favor any airline that asks its passengers to not make voice calls AND to mute the sound/use headphones. Don’t need the confusion of everyone’s message/mail received/etc. tones going off.

    • rb763

      Playing devil’s advocate, what if all airlines allowed cell phone use for voice calls?

      • James Hughes


        “The DoT’s actions on this issue were triggered late last year when the Federal Communications Commissionvoted to lift restrictions that had previously prohibited in-flight calls. These rules were primarily concerned with safety and we imposed in the early 1990s due to fears that the wireless signals from cellphones could interfere with airplanes’ navigational equipment. The FCC’s decision was based on a growing consensus that using cellphones on airplanes doesn’t actually pose an acute safety threat.

        The FCC’s rules don’t universally allow phone calls to be made on airplanes; rather, it allows that decision to be left up to each individual airline carrier.”

        • rb763

          I guess you didn’t understand what I was trying to say which was choosing an airline based on their cell phone policy wouldn’t work if they all took the same path.

          • James Hughes

            Correct, I thought you were suggesting that Airlines could not offer this currently.

      • Meaux

        If people want it, then there will be an opportunity for an airline to win customers by banning them.

    • Tom

      Was going to post the same. It’s not the government’s job, but I’d welcome standards of courtesy by the airlines. If nothing else, it’d be a differentiator.

  • Ben Govero

    Not the government’s place to ban calls. Let the airlines do it if they want to.

  • Gretchen

    Absolutely. It has nothing to do with technology or interference with electronic equipment. It has everything to do with not having to listen to ringing phones every few minutes and asswipes shouting into handsets.

    • Meaux

      It’s the government’s job to legislate common courtesy?

  • John

    I spent two hours next to a guy who was conferencing on his laptop during a flight. Apparently there are federal laws against me depositing his CPU inside his colon.

    • Lukas

      Pro tip: next time, pack a book and headphones. Then you can spend your time on the plane doing something useful, rather than being angry at somebody for doing his job.

      • DougFisher

        Yeah, you should spend $300 bucks on a good pair of noise cancelling headphones in anticipation of some jackass.

        Meanwhile, since you’re a butcher, you can gut a rabbit in your seat because you know, it’s your job. Hopefully your neighbours bring their $3 blindfolds.

      • John

        LOL. You think he was working at 11 PM?

  • JohnDoey

    The same argument could be made to ban all talking on planes. How is it different if you sit in a 2-seat row with someone who makes a cell call, or sit in a 3-seat row with 2 people who have a conversation the whole time?

    Are you going to ban cell calls also on buses and trains? There are 24-hour bus rides, but plane rides are much shorter.

    Movie cinemas?

    Will this law apply to foreign airlines?

    Will there be an exception for first class? (Probably.)

    What if I don’t know how to text or my phone doesn’t support it, or I have a disability that prevents me from texting, am I cut off from communicating entirely while you sit next to me texting, huts for your convenience?

    What if I send audio iMessages instead of voice calls, is that a loophole?

    Are people going to get arrested for taking a call from a hospital in the city they are traveling to, from a dying relative?

    The cops and courts and legislators are already out of control. And you want to get them involved in policing people who are making phone calls?

    How about banning assault rifles and handguns (i.e. well-regulating the militia, as described by the 2nd amendment) instead of banning voice calls on planes (which are likely protected by the 1st amendment?)

    Just more stupid dreck distraction from real problems like mass shootings, failing antibiotics (because they were abused by corporate farmers and for-profit doctors,) the 40 year wage freeze, the casino economy, failing infrastructure, legalized government bribery via campaign contributions, a Supreme Court that is the same size as it was when the country had 1/10th of the population, racist laws still on the books, militarized police, for-profit prisons, lack of regulation of the sale of recreational drugs, climate change, and so many other real problems.

    • “The same argument could be made to ban all talking on planes. How is it different if you sit in a 2-seat row with someone who makes a cell call, or sit in a 3-seat row with 2 people who have a conversation the whole time?”

      Actually, it’s not. Several studies have shown that overhearing a one sided conversation is much more annoying and distracting than hearing both sides of it.

    • shawn is correct — your brain is constantly trying to find the missing side of an overheard one-sided conversation, and it’s scientifically annoying as fuck.

  • Agreed. I don’t want to hear other people breathing, let alone talking on the phone.

  • Lukas

    You want laws to enforce etiquette? Maybe you also want to ban phone calls in trains, on the subway, and, hell, generally in public spaces? Also, while we’re at it, let’s ban kids. Much bigger nuisance than people talking on phones. Oh, and let’s ban iPhone owners. Far too smug, it’s annoying everybody else.


    • Terry Maraccini

      Banning kids is okay with me 🙂

    • i see what you think you did there.

  • Terry Maraccini

    An airline flight gives the illusion of a big flying living room. In reality it is car going humans. No phone calls please.

  • normm

    The airlines should try to get people to be courteous to each other, and ask people to limit their calls, but why would we want this to be a government issue? People may have many excellent reasons to make a brief call from the air, and it would be stupid to ban this!

    • no, you dont have an excellent reason. you arent so important that you cant be out of communication for a few hours. if you were, you wouldnt be on a commercial airliner.

      get it?

      • James Hughes

        How about 14 hours with a sick young child who is blind? Is that okay with you? Pretty please?