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Editorial: Allow cellphones on flights, but don’t allow calls

Published 9:56am Friday, December 13, 2013

Allow airline passengers to use cellphones on flights. Just don’t allow them to make voice calls.

Text, email, surf the Internet, play video games, personal message. All these options make sense.

The Federal Communications Commission has begun a months-long process to review whether to allow cellphone calls during flights.

The rule was in place because of concerns over wireless bandwidth, not passenger inconvenience. Modern technology has changed, and it indeed is a rule worth reviewing. After all, cellphone calls are allowed during flights in several countries.

The FCC says it’s a technology issue, nothing else, but the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees aviation, notes that allowing calls might not be fair to consumers.

We agree.

People pay hard-earned money to take flights aboard airplanes. They already calmly and kindly put up with security measures, bag fees, connecting flights and, at times, the strangeness of strangers. Why should they have to sit next to someone who is yapping away on a cellphone the entire flight? It seems like that would deter people from flying.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found 48 percent of Americans oppose allowing cellphones to be used for voice calls during flights. Only 19 percent favor it, and another 30 percent are neutral.

We commend Delta Airlines, which has one of its major hubs at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, as the only airline so far to announce it would not allow voice calls, regardless of what the federal government decides.

If anything, it’s about etiquette. With so many means to communicate with a cellphone besides talking, who needs to talk on an airplane?

Besides, if the FCC rule is repealed, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Congress pass a law banning voice calls. However, we can’t help but wonder: What would the First Amendment rulings on that law would be? Let the airlines decide instead.