by Matt Alderton | December 04, 2013
The Federal Communications Commission last week unveiled a plan to allow cellphone calls and Internet service on commercial flights. Although some consumers welcomed the news, the travel industry expressed “doubts” about the change.

“When considering this kind of policy change, safety and security always need to be the top priority, and the final policy needs to be coherent and readily enforceable. We should also carefully consider whether allowing open cellphone conversations during flights truly enhances the passenger experience. Personally, I have my doubts that the traveling public will wholeheartedly embrace this, but we should be abundantly clear on whether or not that’s true before this policy is allowed to proceed,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement.

Dow is just one of many critics who have expressed skepticism about permitting cellphone use on planes. The flight attendants union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), said it “overwhelmingly” rejects the proposal.

“AFA opposes any changes that would allow in-flight voice calls,” AFA said. “Flight attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation’s aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment. Any situation that is loud, divisive and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe. Many polls and surveys conducted over the years find that a vast majority of the traveling public wants to keep the ban on voice calls in the aircraft cabin. In far too many operational scenarios, passengers making phone calls could extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called bans on in-flight mobile services “outdated and restrictive,” but said the choice ultimately will belong to airlines.

“If the Commission adopts this proposal after the public has had the opportunity to comment it will be only a technical advisory, an update to our rules,” he said. “There is nothing in the proposal that prohibits airlines from developing whatever in-flight phone usage policy they may wish.”