Alexander, Markey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ban Cellphone Calls on Airplanes

Posted on June 28, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 2017 – U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced bipartisan legislation directing the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to prohibit the use of cell phones for voice calls on airplanes.

"Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into their phones: babbling about next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, or arguments with spouses,” Alexander said. “Now imagine nearly two million passengers, hurtling through space yapping their innermost thoughts while you travel restrained by your seatbelt and unable to escape. Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.”

"Passengers chatting on their mobile devices in the small confines of an airplane could make flying even less comfortable,” Sen. Markey said. “Passengers should not have to suffer through the conversations of others, and flight crews should not be disrupted while performing their important safety and security duties. I plan to fight for this legislation to be included in the FAA reauthorization bill." 

In December, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began considering a rule change that could allow for the use of cell phones for phone conversations on flights.  In April 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai terminated this rulemaking however future chairmen could reopen similar changes.

The legislation, the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, would direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations prohibiting the use of cell phones for voice communications on regularly scheduled commercial flights.  It would allow the use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration has approved.  

In December 2013, Alexander and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced similar legislation, and in March 2014, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, urging the Department to impose a rule prohibiting the use of cell phones for voice communications.