Technology

In-flight call ban should be upheld says US watchdog

Man on phone on plane Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Regulators in favour of upholding the ban said it would be a victory for Americans who valued quiet

A ban on the use of mobile phones during airline flights in the US looks likely to be upheld.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, said a previous plan to allow calls was "ill-conceived".

His predecessor had argued that the ban was obsolete because so many airliners now used mobile signals for in-flight entertainment.

Mr Pai said keeping the ban would be a victory for those who valued quiet.

"I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants and America's flying public against the FCC's ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes," Mr Pai said in a statement.

"Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet."

The FCC received thousands of comments from the general public opposed to allowing voice calls on planes.

One said lifting the ban was "the worst idea ever" while another said it was "cruel and unusual torture for those of us trapped".

Flight attendants have also opposed lifting the ban, over concerns about passengers ignoring safety briefings and terrorists co-ordinating attacks.

A handful of airlines do allow calls during flights, enabled by services such as AeroMobile.

The firm, which offers voice services on four airlines flying to America, told USA Today that only about 5% of passengers use it, with calls lasting an average of just two minutes.

In 2014, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that electronic devices such as mobile phones can be left switched on during flights.

More recently, security fears have forced a ban on laptops in hand luggage.

The FCC's vote on whether to uphold the phone call ban will not extend to the use of wi-fi for voice calls - via services such as Skype - although most airlines do currently prohibit such calls.

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