In a letter sent to employees and released to the public today, Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) CEO Richard Anderson announced that, regardless of the ultimate ruling from the federal government, the airline will not allow in-flight voice calls for its customers.
Anderson noted that feedback from both customers and employees of Delta Air Lines led the company to its decision, as it felt "voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience." The company did note that, if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed its ban on cellular phone use in flight, it would quickly move to allow its customers to use silent means of communication -- text, email, and other services -- from "gate to gate."
This announcement follows a three-to-two vote from the FCC last Thursday to consider removing its ban on in-flight calls. This was met with motions both from members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to continue the ban on voice calls on commercial flights. The USDOT has sought comment surrounding the matter from both public and private stakeholders.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted in an official statement:
Over the past few weeks, we have heard of concerns raised by airlines, travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others who are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight – and I am concerned about this possibility as well. As the FCC has said before, their sole role on this issue is to examine the technical feasibility of the use of mobile devices in flight. We believe USDOT's role, as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers.
Anderson concluded the letter by noting:
Even as technology advances and as regulations are changed, we will not only consider what we can do, but as importantly we will also consider what is right for our customers and our employees. This is yet another example of how we continue to have your back and how we also rely on your professionalism and experience to guide our actions and decisions.
Just last week, JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) announced a free Wi-Fi service onboard its planes, and said that it would not ban in-flight calls over Wi-Fi, or voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).
However, following customer backlash, the airline announced on Saturday that: "We've heard from many customers and the majority have shared that they do not want voice or video calls allowed onboard. We currently do not allow customers to use VoIP onboard. Our inflight team will enforce this as they would enforce any other onboard policy."