Debate over Cellphone Use on Airplanes: should the Market, the DoT Secretary or Congress decide?

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Article:Delta, Southwest Airlines chiefs don’t like in-flight phone calls


Everybody seems to want to do something about cellphones on airplanes!

1. The FCC voted to consider removing the ban on use of cellphones on airplanes.

2.Secretary Foxx announced that the Department of Transportation plans to examine whether it can ban the use of these instruments on board aircraft based on its Aviation Consumer Protection Authority . Not to prejudge that process, but the DoT’s consumer protection powers are designed to assure that airlines are not abusing the passengers. A ban would protect Passenger A from Passenger B. There was a time when airlines offered a phone embedded in many airplanes; was that illegal?

3.T&I Chairman Shuster introduced a bill which would ban the use of these telephones on airplanes — . Unlike the DoT, Congress may legislate new rule. 3.

As noted in the above linked article, the CEOs of Southwest and Delta issued statements that on the airplanes which they operate, they plan to prohibit using cellphones to converse on airplanes.

That is an interesting array of “phony” approaches to this problem. Congress enacted the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 and its intent was to have the carriers compete on routes, rates and service. Consumers may HATE to get on an airplane and have her/his neighbor talk on the phone (see the T&I website humorous exposition of unpleasant plane talk ); others may find the option of being able to converse while flying to be a positive reason to choose one airline over another.

Congress represents the people and if the legislative process can define a national opposition to telephonic communications on board; so be it. Otherwise, the dictates of 1978 seem to control.

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