Nightly News   |  November 21, 2013

Cell phone calls in flight could become the new normal

The Federal Communications Commission says it’s going to propose allowing airline passengers to talk on their cell phones once in air. These suggested changes are a long way from becoming reality, but flight attendants have already voiced their opinion. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> in this country may never be the same again. the federal communications commission is considering allowing the use of cell phones on planes above 10,000 feet. it is safe to anticipate passenger opinions may be split on this between those who want to talk and need to talk and those who don't necessarily need to hear the intricate details of their lives, say, all the way from new york to los angeles . while it's early yet in this process, the new head of the fcc said this is just keeping up with the times. he says they're reviewing their outdated and restricted rules. the story where we begin tonight is with nbc's tom costello. tom, good evening.

>> good evening. this is still far from reality, but it could be soon you'll be able to hear everything your seatmate says, in fact, everybody on the plane says the length of your entire trip. for many it's that last refuge from ringing phones and text messages, but now there may be the first sign that could change. the fcc says it will soon propose allowing passengers to talk on their phones in their seats above 10,000 feet. something already aloud in europe and asia but not in the u.s. in a statement the commissioner said today, the time is right to review our outdated and restricted rules. a public comment period would come first.

>> this idea is every frequent flyer 's worst nightmare, to be stuck in a tube flying 30,000 feet with people making unnecessary calls for six hours or more.

>> reporter: we asked travelers for their reactions today at reagan international airport .

>> way too disruptive. i like my peace.

>> most of my travel is work, so it's very difficult to unplug, so i need to be connected.

>> reporter: last month the faa eased restrictions on most portable electronic devices in flight after researchers determined they were safe.

>> the policy that we put out today, i think, strikes the appropriate balance between responding what customers want but, first and foremost, ensuring that we have a safe environment.

>> reporter: experts say the technology also exists to allow a phone call from your seat to 35,000 feet below. it would be up to the airline to decide whether to go along, but flight attendants have already made it clear they don't like the idea.

>> no. we've done surveys about the use of cellular telephones , and by far passengers do not want that. passengers don't want the cell phones , and i can tell you flight attendants don't, either.

>> reporter: this is only a proposal and the entire process takes a long time. and remember, we did used to have phones on planes, but when people realized what they were paying for the roaming charges, they kind of went away.

>> at least roaming charges have come down in price. while