The in-flight calling debate has begun thanks to a decision by the FCC (News - Alert) to rethink its ban on the activity throughout the travel industry. Since the day the FAA determined in-flight calls don’t actually cause planes to crash, the far reaches of the industry have been examining the topic to determine the best strategy moving forward. For business VoIP users on the move, this topic is likely to get significant attention.
One airline isn’t waiting for a federal government decision, however, and has publically declared its position on the topic. According to a recent TechCrunch article, Delta will not be allowing in-flight calls through cellular, VoIP or business VoIP connections. The airline will take the necessary steps to enable silent communications, such as email, text and other channels, however.
For now, that’s really all they have to do. The FCC’s decision to rethink its ban simply opens up the topic for additional conversation. They’ve asked for public opinion on whether or not the ban should be reversed. If it is, the Department of Transportation has indicated that it may put a ban of its own on in-flight calls if the FCC reverses its position and allows airlines to make the choice for themselves.
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So why has Delta taken the position to keep phones quiet? The airline claims that customer research and direct feedback indicates that frequent flyers feel that voice calls in the cabin would actually be a disruption to the travel experience. The airline did a survey in 2012 and found the clear majority of customers feel the ability to make voice calls on flights would in fact detract from the experience, rather than enhance it. In-flight crews and employees are definitely not in favor of on board voice calls.
Could this statement hurt Delta business? It won’t matter in the short term as calls still aren’t allowed. But, if movement toward extending mobile VoIP and cellular calls to in-flight customers begins, it could separate the men from the boys. It’s also possible that Delta’s survey results were skewed given the fact that calls aren’t currently allowed. If they were and business travelers need access, would they gather different results?
The outcome of this decision will certainly channel considerable buzz throughout the industry. It will be interesting to see if Delta shifts its position if airlines are allowed to make their own decision and competing airlines allow for in-flight voice calls. A number of business travels do want this capability as access to business VoIP allows them considerable flexibility when working on the road. For others, the flight delivers much-needed relaxation.
Ultimately, is this a matter of consumer choice or federal regulations? Will you get to be the judge?
Edited by Alisen Downey