US politicians want ban on in-flight callsBacklash against mobile usage on planes begins

21 April 2008

A close-up of someone holding a mobile phone.

The prospect of mobile phone use on European flights is moving closer but the backlash against in-flight calls has already begun in the United States.

Several American politicians have launched a bill seeking a ban on people making in-flight calls on US flights.

They fear that airlines could use mobile phones as another way to get more money out of passengers.

For example, airlines could charge passengers to sit in a non-talking section and charge people to use their phones.

Packed planes

Congressman Peter DeFazio, one of the politicians behind the bill, said: ‘The public doesn't want to be subjected to people talking on their cell phones on an already over-packed airplane

He added: ‘Our bill would ensure that financially strapped airlines don't drive us towards this noisome disruption in search of further revenue.’

Satellite link

Earlier this month the European Commission paved the way for in-flight mobile phone use across Europe.

Passengers would use their phone to connect to an on-board base station, which would be switched on once a plane was above 9,840ft (3,000m).

Mobile users will then be able to use the aircraft's network service to make and receive calls which will be routed via a satellite link to the network on the ground.

Transparent call charges

Calls will be billed through passengers' normal service providers and the EU has already warned phone operators that in-flight prices will need to be transparent.

Which? technology editor Matthew Bath said: 'While many consumers will be overjoyed at making in-flight calls on their own mobile phones, others will be concerned about both potentially high prices charged by airlines, and higher noise levels from other passengers.

'Airlines will need to be completely transparent about the costs of in-flight calls, and ensure that flights aren't turned into the equivalent of noisy flying call centres – otherwise passengers will vote with their wallets and choose a different airline.'