ATW Editor's Blog

On inflight cell phone use, Delta CEO makes the right call


Delta Air Lines has taken the bull by the horns and said it will not allow cellular calls or internet-based voice communications onboard its flights.

In a memo issued Wednesday to all Delta employees, CEO Richard Anderson said the airline’s customer research and direct feedback tells them that their frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption.

“A clear majority of customers who responded to a 2012 survey said they felt the ability to make voice calls onboard would detract from – not enhance – their experience. Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls onboard,” Anderson said.

The move comes after the US Federal Communications Commission voted to seek public comment on a proposal to lift its ban on in-flight cell phone use.

Delta was the first US carrier to file a plan to allow customers to use portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet after FAA relaxed rules for their use. The UK’s CAA followed suit.

“If the FCC lifts its ban on cellular use in flight, Delta will move quickly to enable customers to use text, email and other silent data transmission services gate to gate,” Anderson said.

“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.”

It’s my bet that Anderson has made the right call and that he will win huge support – not to say a sigh of relief – from his customers.

Everyone I’ve talked to in this business regarding onboard cell phone use has had the same reaction – “please, no.”

At the IATA forecast briefing in Geneva last week, IATA said its findings have overwhelmingly shown that passengers do not want access onboard phone calls. Interestingly, this is a particularly strong feeling among business travelers, who cite things such as the ability to get some sleep and rest among their priorities. IATA also gave some figures showing an increase in disruptive passenger events. Many people fear not just the awful prospect of having to sit next to someone who is talking on their phone throughout the flight, but also the potential this has for further increasing unruly passenger problems.

So good for Anderson and Delta. Let’s hope other airlines follow their lead.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Dec 18, 2013

The ability to participate in conference calls without speaking is something that many people would appreciate. It just shows how people have to make informed sensible decisions and not let emotions get in the way. I support voice calls being allowed, it was not a problem when it was allowed, it is not a problem where it is allowed and it won't be a problem when it is allowed here. I dislike loud conversations as much as anyone else but these can happen with or without cellphones. When people learn to be more accepting of others then they will enjoy their flights and their lives much more.

on Dec 19, 2013

You make good points; ultimately, no rules or restrictions would be needed if everyone was reasonably tolerant and also considerate of those around them. A truism of life, not just air travel.
An example of this inflight is with babies and small children. Too often, you see passengers automatically assume other people's children will be a nuisance, which raises stress levels for everyone, and they don't offer up small courtesies that might help a parent traveling with a youngster and make everyone's flight more enjoyable.
Sadly, however, I think cellphone use would be an ignition point -- either because of people abusing their use or by other passengers who would be unreasonably intolerant of even a short call.
That's why trains have "quiet" carriages. It's much harder to designate quiet segments on a plane.
And there are also the flight attendants to consider. Another sad truth is that once onboard, people have a tendency to want the flight attendant to resolve these issues, rather than resolving them politely and directly with each other. I completely understand why cabin crew would not want this issue on top of all their existing responsibilities.

on Dec 18, 2013

Congratulations Delta!

Its pleasing to see a major player making decisions to preserve customer's rights to peace & preservation of private space.

However I don't support unrestricted access to data transmission services during night flights, or non-daylight portions of long flights.

Most airlines ask passengers to close window blinds during periods when the overwhelming majority of passengers want to sleep. It makes no sense if Little Johnny or Big Ted want to play games or wrestle with a laptop; whilst seated next to you in a confined space and you are trying to sleep! Come daylight, sure bring it on - but not the cell phone!

on Dec 27, 2013

Thank You Delta. Now I hope all the other carriers will fall in line and not allow this inconsiderate annoyance to occur while being confined to a small space for many hours with nowhere to escape.
Many of the cell calls I hear are just nonsense, "put the baby on so I can say goodnight" or "I'll be arriving at such and such a time".
As far as business calls, how did people ever conduct business before ? Its called planning ahead, no real need to be connected 24-7.
Its a matter of displaying manners and not allowing some people to ruin the flight for the many.

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