Delta Airlines CEO Says No Cell Phone Calls in the Air

Delta Airlines

With a recent announcement from their CEO, Delta Airlines says no to the use of cell phone calls while in the air, becoming the second carrier to promise to enforce the outright ban. The first was Southwest Airlines, with other US airlines fidgeting about which side to pick. United Airlines stated Wednesday that they would also keep the ban in effect for now, but would continue to evaluate their options, taking their customers’ views into account. American Airlines has remained silent on their stance in allowing inflight calls.

When cell phones were first seen to interfere with a plane’s cockpit communication and navigation, it did not take long for the FCC to clamp down on restrictions for cell phones and other electronic devices. Over the past few years, upgrades to planes and their internal instruments have made such interference preventable, causing many to question why the ban is still in effect.

To this end, the FCC began a review of the policy and are now on the verge of lifting the cell phone call ban. Last week, they voted to publish the rule change proposition and open a 90 day period of comments from the public. Nearly 250 people have already added their opinions about the proposal at the FCC’s website.

Regardless of the FCC outcome, airlines have the ability to continue to enforce the ban on their own or to choose to install the additional technology cell phone users would need to complete their voice calls. Thomas Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, also mentioned that airlines could go halfway with their decision, such as disallowing calls from cell phones but not restricting the use of texting, emailing, or web surfing from the devices.

Even if the ban is lifted, action can still be taken by other federal agencies to prevent voice calls from adding another disruption to flights. In a statement released by Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, he stated that due to the public outcry, his department was contemplating issuing their own injunction on cell phone call usage while in the air.

Delta Air Lines’ CEO, Richard Anderson, made it very clear that saying no to voice calls via cell phone or internet while in the air was at the behest of both their customers and employees. In a memo circulated Wednesday to Delta employees, Anderson released figures detailing how “a clear majority of customers who responded to a 2012 survey” said inflight calls would “detract from — not enhance — their experience.” He also went on to say that the in-flight crews in particular have very definitely stated that they are in favor of continuing the voice call ban.

This announcement comes just a few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relaxed its bar on the use of personal electronic devices under the height of 10,000 feet. This will allow flyers to make use of their electronic readers and iPads during takeoff and landing. In years past, the FAA prohibited such use, citing interference with plane electronics.

Now that Delta Airlines, one of the world’s largest airlines, has its CEO say no to cell phone calls while in the air, others who have not spoken up can follow suit. It seems unlikely at this time, giving the customer and employee protests, that any airline will allow voice calls on the plane,. Perhaps those smart few will start up a new call-friendly section of the plane where avid cell phone users can chat to their hearts’ content.

By Marisa Corley

Star Tribune
LA Times