by Toby Sells
Federal Communications Commission commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to begin the process that could allow passengers to text and make cell phone voice calls when their flights are above 10,000 feet. But as we reported in a story last week, the process will be a long one with at least months of mandatory public comment.
But a group of Senators couldn’t wait. They filed the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, which would prohibit cell phone voice calls on flights. One of those Senators was Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander who worried that voice calls on flights could lead to “fist fights.”
“Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,” Alexander said in a Thursday statement. “This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”
The legislation has bi-partisan support. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein is an original co-sponsor of the bill who said flying on a commercial flight is “not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cell phones.”
The legislation would, however, allow passengers to send text messages.
But U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his agency may step in to block in-flight in before the FCC and before the legislation is considered.
“We believe USDOT’s role, as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers,” Foxx said. “USDOT will now begin a process that will look at the possibility of banning these in-flight calls.”