Alexander, Feinstein Introduce Legislation To Stop Airplane Cell Phone Conversations

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander on Thursday introduced legislation to prohibit cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights, a possibility the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to consider today.

“Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,” Senator Alexander said. “This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly two million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), an original cosponsor of the legislation, said, “Flying on a commercial airline—in a confined space, often for many hours—is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cell phones.  This bill recognizes the use of cell phones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights.  The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.”

The legislation, the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, would prohibit the use of voice communication through cell phones on regularly scheduled commercial flights, after the Federal Communications Commission announced it is exploring what type of cell phone use is safe on airplanes. It would allow the use of cell phones for texting and other electronic communication, if the FCC were to approve such communications. It would also allow the use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved.

The FCC is scheduled to hold a public meeting this afternoon on a possible rule change approving the use of such technology on airplanes, a step it has acknowledged would “open the door” to approved cell phone conversations on flights. Alexander’s legislation mirrors current regulation. It only applies to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers, unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports. It exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.

Senator Alexander said, “When you stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies – babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses – it’s not hard to see why the FCC shouldn’t allow cell phone conversations on airplanes. The solution is simple: text messages, yes; conversations, no.”

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