In-flight calls? Are passengers on board?

Written by By Staff Writer

Think talking on the phone is a bad idea on commercial airline flights? Think again.

Several European airlines are now allowing passengers to make calls in flight. Long-haul transatlantic jets from carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair are equipped with “in-flight calls,” while in-flight Wi-Fi is available on several European airlines.

While such inflight services are becoming more common worldwide, they still face strict restrictions in the US.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said that if in-flight calls come to a halt due to government intervention, there will be “no practical way” to prevent calls being heard in-flight, in addition to creating “unacceptable safety, security and consumer concerns.”

However, US authorities have said that they would consider allowing in-flight calls if similar services proved popular with passengers.

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The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is also expected to consider whether to allow calls on aircrafts in coming months.

EASA is still working on a proposal at the moment, but an assessment has already made it clear that calls should not be allowed in-flight unless they are barred in other European Union member states.

Capt. Patrick Smith, who has spent 25 years flying on US and European airlines and has penned several best-selling books on flying, has called for regulations to be introduced.

“Airlines can make their own rules, but allowing GSM-based calls above 10,000 feet is just goofy,” he told CNN.

“There are a couple of very good reasons for that. There is the time-honored (airlines) favorite of ‘the cabin pressure is too high’ for some like me, and the simpler reason that you are not going to hear a call unless your own mobile is attached to the airplane.”

Europe’s fliers, however, don’t agree with airlines on the issue.

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An online poll conducted earlier this year by Bloomberg found that 80% of Europeans prefer to ban in-flight mobile phone calls, and nearly 80% don’t want the internet to be free, according to research company YouGov.

However, the polls come as one of the most vocal opponents of in-flight calls has vanished from the public debate.

In December 2014, there was a concerted effort to take down the Stop Airlines Talking on Cell Phones (SAVE) website. The online group claimed to have secured the support of 750,000 online petitioners and 100,000 tweeters who wanted to stop cell phone calls in-flight.

However, the site was shut down for non-payment in March.

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