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This Oct. 31, 2013 file photo shows a plane passenger checking her cell phone before a flight in Boston.

AP,

From the Travel Desk: Speak up about cellphone calls during flights

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG
  • Star Tribune
  • March 1, 2014 - 6:08 PM

Whether you love or loathe the idea of allowing cellphone calls during flights, let your voice be heard — not necessarily by loudly talking about your opinion in the vicinity of strangers. The Department of Transportation is taking consumer comments “on whether voice calls on aircraft constitute an unfair practice to consumers” until March 26 at http://tinyurl.com/m2bojcz.

It may seem like the case of a bad connection between the DOT and the Federal Communications Commission. The two agencies are at odds over the current ban on cellphone calls in the air. Two months ago, the FCC called the 23-year-old ban outdated and restrictive, suggesting it could be dropped. The DOT recently indicated that the ban should stay in place.

The FCC regulates communications, including via cellphones, and according to its website works to revise “media regulations so that new technologies flourish.” It has determined that calls won’t interfere with the workings of an aircraft; it would like the airlines, not the government, to decide. The Department of Transportation, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration, regulates aviation consumer issues. It has the authority to decide if such calls constitute an unfair practice to consumers, and is no doubt well aware of polls and airline studies showing that a majority of fliers don’t want to listen to their neighbors’ telephone conversations.

“No! Please no!” Bonnie Carey Oberg of Farmington wrote after I posted a query on the subject. “I am seldom without my cellphone, but I don’t want to listen to all the other passengers’ life problems while flying.”

If two government agencies can’t agree, maybe fliers should get to make the call.

 

Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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