Phone calls won't be allowed on planes anytime soon.

By Alison Fox
December 02, 2020
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Airlines throughout the world offer incredible amenities from flying nannies and afternoon tea, to high-tech options like live TV and free WiFi, but calling people on the ground isn’t one of them. And now, thanks to a new ruling by the Federal Communications Commission, it won’t be anytime soon.

The FCC had been considering a proposal to allow in-flight voice calls from cell phones since 2013, but dropped it last week among “strong opposition” from pilots and flight attendants, according to the agency. The proposal would have allowed passengers to make calls above 10,000 feet, which Bloomberg noted is more common in other places, including Europe.

“The record is insufficient to determine any reasonable solution that would strike an appropriate balance of competing interests,” the FCC wrote in its ruling, issued on Friday. “There is strong opposition to the Commission’s proposals from many commenters in this proceeding, including our nation’s airline pilots and flight attendants, who argue that it ‘fail[s] to address significant safety and national security concerns.’” 

To potentially alleviate those safety concerns, the FCC noted “rigorous technical studies based on U.S.-specific standards remain necessary” but for now “it would not serve the public interest or be a wise use of the agency’s limited resources to continue to pursue this rulemaking proceeding.”

This ruling on in-flight phone calls (which many worried would result in a seatmate babbling on the whole flight) has been in the works for years with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying he wasn’t a fan back in 2017.

While travelers may not be able to make phone calls from 40,000 feet, they can still pretend with United Airlines’ Zoom backgrounds with several options from above the clouds.

And travelers can be prepared for when airplane mode is turned off on their next international vacation (whenever that may be) with a variety of portable hotspots and international cell phone plans.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.