It’s the one safe zone where people are exempt from having to listen in on personal phone calls and family dramas. But a loophole in air travel regulations could allow fliers to place in-flight phone calls as long as travelers are notified of the service before their ticket purchase.
In a bid to pre-emptively address concerns about voice calls aboard planes, the US Department of Transportation has put forth a proposal that would require airlines and ticket agents to disclose in advance the service ahead of time.
While the Federal Communications Commission prohibits the use of mobile devices and voice calls on radio frequencies while on board an aircraft, existing rules do not cover wifi as a means to make voice phone calls.
The new proposal is aimed at protecting fliers from having to inadvertently listen in on their seatmates yammering on endlessly about their annoying co-worker or the latest family gossip in a closed environment with nowhere to escape.
“The Department believes that consumers would be unfairly surprised and harmed if they learned only after the purchase of a ticket (or, worse, after boarding the aircraft) that the carrier permits voice calls on its flights,” says a statement issued by the DOT.
“If voice calls are allowed on a flight, the DOT proposal requires disclosure the first time that flight is offered or identified to a consumer.” Consumers have 60 days to weigh in on the proposal, including whether or not simple disclosure is sufficient.
Meanwhile, airlines like Delta and JetBlue have already come out to say that regardless of pending regulations, their planes will remain voice call-free. Citing customer feedback, both US carriers said they will continue to ban in-flight calls be it on Skype or mobile devices, as most respondents agreed that in-flight phone calls would detract from their flight experience.