Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today introduced legislation to prohibit cellphone conversations on commercial airline flights, a possibility the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to consider today.

Senator Feinstein said: “Flying on a commercial airline—in a confined space, often for many hours—is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cellphones. This bill recognizes the use of cellphones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights. The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.”

Senator Alexander said: “Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense. This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

The legislation, the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, would prohibit the use of voice communication through cellphones on regularly scheduled commercial flights, after the Federal Communications Commission announced it is exploring what type of cellphone use is safe on airplanes. It would allow the use of cellphones for texting and other electronic communication, if the FCC were to approve such communications. It would also allow the use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved.

The FCC is scheduled to hold a public meeting today on a possible rule change approving the use of such technology on airplanes, a step it has acknowledged would “open the door” to approved cellphone conversations on flights. The senators’ legislation mirrors current regulation. It only applies to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers, unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports. It exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.