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House Takes Step to Ban In-Flight Cellphone Calls

Allowing airline passengers to make cellphone calls in-flight is asking for trouble, lawmakers said Tuesday as a House panel approved a bill to ban such calls. The bill — passed without opposition by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — requires the Department of Transportation to issue regulations prohibiting such calls. The department has already said it is considering creating such a ban as part of its consumer protection role. The bill has no impact on the Federal Aviation Administration's decision late last year to allow passengers to email, text, surf the Internet and download data using smartphones and other personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. Phone calls are another matter. Both Republican and Democratic House members, some of the nation's most frequent fliers, said they believe in-flight calls would be noisy and disturbing to other passengers and possibly disruptive. "Most passengers would like their flights to go by as quickly and quietly as possible," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the committee's chairman and sponsor of the bill, said. "When it comes to cellphones on planes, tap, don't talk." Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the prospect of "sitting among dozens of people all talking on their cellphones in a confined space raises serious safety, if not comfort, considerations especially at a time when passengers face less legroom, higher fees and pricey flights." Also Tuesday, the FAA issued a rule prohibiting airline pilots from using cellphones and other personal electronic devices for personal use during flight and other aircraft operations. The agency was already telling airlines they should prohibit their pilots from using the devices except when they aid navigation. Some airlines give pilots iPads called electronic flight bags that contain charts and other navigation information.

— The Associated Press