delta

Delta and JetBlue: No voice calls on our planes

Dec. 18, 2013 at 2:50 PM ET

 Cellphones Planes Travelers
Charlie Riedel / AP
In this Oct. 29, 2012, file photo, a traveler on Delta Airlines waits for her flight in Detroit.

While the Federal Communications Commission reconsiders its longtime ban on in-flight-phone calls, Delta Air Lines says its own policy will remain as it is: no, no and no. And after it previously considered allowing in-flight calls, JetBlue has also decided to prohibit them.

The FCC is considering a proposal to step aside and let airlines determine their own policies on using electronic devices in the air. In an apparent attempt to test public opinion, the commission issued an open invitation to anyone willing to comment on the matter.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson responded with a statement Wednesday, saying both his company's customers and crews are still cold on the idea of passengers chatting away into phones on flights.

"In fact, a clear majority of customers who responded to a 2012 survey said they felt the ability to make voice calls on-board would detract from — not enhance — their experience," he said. "Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls on-board."

However, should the FCC overturn the ban, Delta said it will compromise by allowing passengers to text, email, or use their phones in other ways. Just so long as they do so silently. 

JetBlue representative Morgan Johnston cited similar customer feedback to support its decision to forbid in-flight calls.

"We've heard from many customers, and the majority have shared that they do not want voice or video calls allowed on board," Johnston said in an email to CNBC. "We do not allow customers to use VOIP onboard, and have no plans on installing the cellular transponders that would allow cellular calls."

United Airlines gave CNBC a statement less final, saying the company is "evaluating the views of our customers and crew members on in-flight calling, and at this time we don't intend to permit use of cellphones."

Meanwhile in Europe, British Airways is to become the first airline to allow passengers to keep their phones and tablet computers switched on throughout their journey, the company said on Wednesday.

Although travelers will still not be allowed to text or make phone calls, the agreement with Britain's Civil Aviation Authority lifts the current restrictions that require devices to be turned off until the aircraft is airborne and again when the aircraft is about to land.

Customers will, however, still have to put devices into "flight safe" mode, which disables texts, voice calls and network access, the airline said. Wednesday's changes do not include laptops.

Earlier this month, the European Aviation Safety Agency said airlines would be able to introduce such changes subject to their own assessments.

"We know that our customers want to use their handheld electronic devices more, so this will be very welcome news for them," said Captain Ian Pringle, flight training manager at British Airways.

"The easing of restrictions will provide an average of 30 minutes additional personal screen time."

Business travelers on British Airways flights between London's City Airport and New York can already send texts and access WiFi.

CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero and Reuters contributed to this story. 

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