Many airlines now offer in-flight Internet.

Many airlines now offer in-flight Internet.

The cabin of an airplane in flight is one of the last refuges from the incessant chatter of cell phone conversations. But two government agencies are considering whether to lift a ban on in-flight cellular service and allow passengers to make phone calls. Tech Tuesday examines the technology in question and the arguments for and against voice calls on planes.

Guests

  • Steve Nolan Director of Communications for Gogo
  • Kevin Rogers CEO, AeroMobile
  • Julie Frederick Government Affairs Representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and an international flight attendant for American Airlines with over 30 years of flying experience
  • Charles Leocha Chairman and Founder, Travelers United

Transcript

  • 12:23:45

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAir travel isn't what it used to be. We are x-rayed on the way to the gate, packed into even cozier seats and charged for food, bags and extra leg room. But some travelers still relish a long flight because it's the one place they can stow their phones and read a good book in a quiet sanctuary six miles above the Earth. Now that peaceful airline cabin could get a little less tranquil. Two government agencies are exploring the possibility of lifting a ban on cellular services on aircraft and permitting phone calls in flight.

  • 12:24:15

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWith the evolution of technology the safety questions have all but disappeared. A dozen non-American airlines already allow voice calls. And some say it's time for U.S. airlines to do the same, but flight attendants and a lot of travelers say no way. Joining me to examine the technology in question and the arguments for and against in-flight phone calls is Julie Frederick. She's a government affairs representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and an international flight attendant for American Airlines, with over 30 years of flying experience. She joins us in studio. Julie Frederick, welcome.

  • 12:24:51

    MS. JULIE FREDERICKThank you.

  • 12:24:52

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Charles Leocha. Charlie is chairman and founder of Travelers United. Charles Leocha, good to see you again.

  • 12:24:59

    MR. CHARLES LEOCHAGlad to be here.

  • 12:25:01

    NNAMDIYou can join the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Joining us from studios at WLS in Chicago is Steve Nolan. He is director of communications for Gogo. Steve Nolan, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:25:16

    MR. STEVE NOLANThanks for having me.

  • 12:25:18

    NNAMDICharlie, a year ago the Federal Aviation Administration removed a decades-old ban on using personal electronic devices on planes. How did the evolution of technology convince the FAA there was no longer any danger and what are the rules on planes today?

  • 12:25:33

    LEOCHAWell, the big thing that happened is that they've determined -- they've found ways to direct the cellphone emissions from planes so it's not going out to hit many, many towers, which used to -- according to the FCC, it would disrupt cellphone coverage across the country when we were having this kind of non-directed cellphone traffic going. Once that happened -- they've now tested everything. They've tried to find out whether or not it had any kind of effect on instrumentation in aircraft.

  • 12:26:11

    LEOCHAAnd the manufacturers of the instruments now have to make sure that the instruments are designed so that they are not -- there's no interference. And so because they've eliminated those kinds of safety problems, the FCC said, okay, cellphones can be used. And DOT has allowed the personal electronic devices to be used. However, they still haven't decided whether or not they're going allow voice transmission, which is one part of the entire cellphone spectrum.

  • 12:26:41

    NNAMDIJulie Frederick, flight attendants didn't like being the traffic cops who had to tell passengers to turn off their devices. How has the change in policy changed your pre-takeoff routine?

  • 12:26:53

    FREDERICKWell, the -- it was a relief, frankly, because flight attendants never want to be in the position of the enforcer. So as we went through the cabin and had to confirm that passengers' personal electronic devices were off it became somewhat cumbersome. Our position now is that that transformation to allow those devices to be used has been seamless. And during the critical phases of flight, which are takeoff, taxi and landing, that those devices just need to be stowed appropriately as any other piece of carryon baggage.

  • 12:27:25

    NNAMDISteve, how did that FAA decision open the door for companies like yours to step in and provide Wi-Fi service on planes?

  • 12:27:33

    NOLANWell, we've been actually providing Wi-Fi for some time. I think it's important to make the distinction between the radio on your phone and the Wi-Fi service on your phone. So you still have to turn your phone into airplane mode when you get on a plane. But you've been able to obviously connect through Gogo Wi-Fi and others for quite some time. In fact, we launched the service in 2008.

  • 12:27:56

    NOLANBut I think, you know, the issue now is whether or not the radio on your phone will be allowed at some point. And frankly, from our perspective, we've had a technology out there for a while that would allow passengers to make phone calls without the radio turned on through the Wi-Fi system. In fact, we deployed that in our business aviation group about a year ago. But we know that our airline partners do not want passengers to talk on cellphones

  • 12:28:26

    NOLANConsumers certainly don't seem to want it. So from that perspective we're very much, you know, aligned with our airline partners on that. That, you know, if some -- for some reason an airline wanted to do it, we could do it today. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

  • 12:28:40

    NNAMDILet's ask our listeners. Do you use your smartphone on the plane? What do you do on it? And I guess, more importantly for this conversation, should voice phone calls be allowed on planes during a flight? What do you think, 800-433-8850? You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow using the #techtuesday, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. Steve, how does in-flight Wi-Fi work and what does it allow passengers to do?

  • 12:29:08

    NOLANWell, simply put, it allows you to access the internet while you're in flight. We use a couple of different technologies to deliver it. For the most part in the United States we have built our own network of cellular towers that actually broadcast a signal up to the plane. So as the plane's kind of flying across the continental United States, it's picking up a signal from towers. That's obviously good for a large contiguous land mass like the U.S.

  • 12:29:33

    NOLANBut outside the U.S. it's very difficult to do it that way, obviously. Planes traveling across an ocean aren't going to get technology to a plane that way. So we have a satellite service as well. And that is very much in use now for international service. But at its core, it really just allows passengers to access the internet and the internet only.

  • 12:29:53

    NNAMDICharlie, now that Wi-Fi is functioning on planes, the next question is cellular service. You talked about the FCC ban on cellular service 20 years ago. That's changed. The ban was adopted in 1991. The technology has changed since then. No longer going to necessarily affect the planes' flight themselves. But if the FCC drops its ban on cellular service, the Department of Transportation could still say no to voice calls in flight. The Department's advisory committee for Aviation Consumer Protections held a hearing on this issue last month. What has the DOT heard from consumers and what authority does it have to act here?

  • 12:30:31

    LEOCHAWell, basically I serve on that advisory committee. And the -- what we've heard from consumers so far is they're pretty loud and clear, no -- but even hell, no, we don't want -- we don't want to have any voice calls on the phone. However, it's also -- if we go and we look at what's happening where voice calls are allowed on planes in Europe, we find out that there's been no problems with air rage and no real complaints that have taken place.

  • 12:31:01

    NNAMDIYou'll hear a little bit more about that shortly, but go ahead. Go ahead.

  • 12:31:05

    LEOCHAAnd so we've got -- this is something which is, you know, it might be a problem right now. I think that a lot of people think it's going to be a big problem. But somehow I think that things, in the end, will be able to be figured out. And if it is a problem, the airlines have the capability of shutting off voice calls. And what I think we're looking at right now from a technology point of view is another system that you can use in order to use your cellphone. And that would be using your carrier plan instead of just using Wi-Fi.

  • 12:31:39

    LEOCHAAnd so the Wi-Fi is already established with Gogo and some other service providers. And now the carrier plan, which is going to send -- which would carry voice calls would come in. And so it's -- it's not going to be that big of a change. The big change is whether or not voice will be allowed or not allowed.

  • 12:31:57

    NNAMDIJoining us now by phone from London is Kevin Rogers. He is the CEO of AeroMobile. Kevin Rogers, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:32:07

    MR. KEVIN ROGERSYeah, good afternoon. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:32:09

    NNAMDIKevin, AeroMobile provides cellphone calling on a dozen international airlines. How does AeroMobile's in-flight phone service work? And which airlines are some of your customers?

  • 12:32:21

    ROGERSWell, the in-flight mobile phone connectivity, Kojo, works through an installed picocell. So we -- you can't just get on an aircraft and switch your mobile on, of course. You have to use it on an aircraft which is equipped with a specialized system, just like a Wi-Fi enabled aircraft. We're installed on around about 300 aircraft across the world. And some of the airline customers include Emirates, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

  • 12:32:52

    NNAMDIHow -- what types of passengers use the service? And how do they use it? To make calls, send text messages?

  • 12:33:01

    ROGERSWell, there's a couple of things here. It's worth bearing in mind that most of these airline customers that we're dealing with have both Wi-Fi and this picocell cellular connectivity installed on the aircraft. So we believe that when you're serving an aircraft cabin you've got many different user preferences. So some people just choose to use their cellular phone just like they do on the ground. Orbit is an international roaming service. And some people prefer to log on and use a longer Wi-Fi internet session.

  • 12:33:29

    ROGERSI think there's a frustrating association of the cell phone, particularly in the U.S. with voice. What we must bear in mind is that the most dominant service used on the cellphone is data and then text. So less than -- considerably less than 20 percent of the users of this connectivity use it for voice. Voice is not often used.

  • 12:33:53

    ROGERSAnd the other aspect to bear in mind very much is that some of the voice discussions that you have in the U.S. we also have in other parts of the world, but in those cases it's the airline that just chooses to switch off voice and that's switched off by default. So Lufthansa, for example, is one of those airlines that doesn't operate the voice service.

  • 12:34:12

    NNAMDIKevin, you testified at the Department of Transportation committee here Washington last month, in favor of allowing voice calls on U.S. airlines. Do you feel that there is a demand for such calls on American flights?

  • 12:34:26

    ROGERSWell, I'd just like to put a slight caveat on that. I think the message that I was trying to bring across was rather than regulate it, let the airline choose. Now, I -- to be frank, I very much doubt that airlines in the U.S. will allow voice. The subject is far too emotive. But do what the rest of the world is doing and allow the airlines to make the choice. The regulators don't need to get involved.

  • 12:34:49

    NNAMDIJulie, you testified at the Department of Transportation committee hearing against allowing phone calls on flights. Why?

  • 12:34:57

    FREDERICKWell, certainly flight attendants know the aircraft cabin and we certainly know our passengers. And I think the comment period to both the FCC and the DOT were overwhelmingly -- I think they received a combined nearly 3,000 comments. And 98 percent were against voice communications. We really just don't want to be in the position of having to regulate the aircraft. We've heard, you know, indications that perhaps an area of the airplane could be isolated for voice calls.

  • 12:35:29

    FREDERICKWe think that's a bad idea. But more importantly, we believe that he DOT does have the authority and the obligation to make a decision to prohibit voice calls. You know, part of the DOT's responsibility is to evaluate the protection of rights for the air traveler. And they've done so in the past and we think they should do so in the future. More importantly, if they -- if Secretary Fox fails to do that, we are fully prepared to support legislation, which has been introduced I both the House and the Senate, to ban voice calls onboard the aircraft.

  • 12:36:02

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Alisha, in Fort Belvoir, Va. Alisha, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:08

    ALISHAYes.

  • 12:36:11

    NNAMDIAlisha, you're breaking up. I'm going to put you back on hold. See if you can get to a more secure location while we talk with Andy, in Arlington, Va. Andy, your turn.

  • 12:36:20

    ANDYExcellent. Yeah, thanks for having me on, Kojo. Basically, I just want to make a comment as someone who flies a lot. There's so many logistical and technological devices put in place to have a personal experience, i.e. watching a movie in silence or experiencing media through headphones. If you have people talking on the plane, wouldn't there be a logistical issue and a noise issue for folks that maybe just want to not have to hear people around them making a lot of noise?

  • 12:36:47

    ANDYThere's so much noise on an airplane anyway, why would there be a need for having everyone talking? Maybe it works in Europe. I can see that. But a lot of people like to talk in the U.S. and I just don't see it being a very enjoyable experience.

  • 12:37:00

    NNAMDIJulie Frederick?

  • 12:37:00

    FREDERICKWell, I think you make an excellent point. And in fact, that's what we hear from our customers. We know that people, when they talk on their cellphones, typically talk much louder. While I was traveling up on the airplane yesterday the aircraft noise was significant. And so if I were to be speaking on my cellphone it would be quite loud. In fact, our personal policy at my airline has a minimizing disturbance to customers.

  • 12:37:24

    FREDERICKAnd so in fact the other day I had a personal experience where a young mother was traveling with her two small children and she had a video, a Disney video that she was showing to them and it was being broadcast so the two little girls could hear it. And I had a problem with a passenger adjacent who was disturbed by that. And I had to ask that lady to insert headphones or turn it off so that her children could not watch the movie.

  • 12:37:50

    FREDERICKAnd that was certainly disappointing because we know that passenger's goal was to get from point A to point B as quickly and as comfortably as possible and that was not the case in this situation.

  • 12:38:01

    NNAMDICharlie Leocha?

  • 12:38:03

    LEOCHAI think the other thing we need to consider is that speaking on cellphones on planes is not going to be like it is talking on the ground. You just can't pick up your phone and talk for free. There used to be phones in the back of all the seat backs on airplanes. And people did use them. Why? They cost too much money. You thought if you even looked at it they were going charge you. And with cellphones it's -- it'll be like roaming.

  • 12:38:26

    LEOCHAWe'll be back to roaming charges. So that's one thing which changes. And the other thing that changes is there are different types of passengers. Let's say I'm looking at a transcontinental flight or a long flight. You might be able to -- as has been explained to me -- allow cellphones for the first half an hour after you take off and for another half an hour before your landing, but otherwise it will be quiet time in between.

  • 12:38:50

    LEOCHAAnd when you're talking to business travelers who fly between D.C. and New York or Boston and New York, they would like to use their cellphones because they're trying to maximize all of their time. And that's a short flight, which never has a movie. So it becomes -- there's a lot of different factors that go into the type of passenger. And I think that part of where I think we need to go is to allow the -- probably the airlines to control this on a flight-by-flight basis and make up their own minds. And we'll see where it goes. DOT's going to have to make a decision one way or other.

  • 12:39:23

    NNAMDIKevin Rogers, I have two questions for you. Based on your experience, what is your response to these concerns? And the second part of that question is that have you observed any cultural difference in the way people in different countries use voice calls on cellphones?

  • 12:39:43

    ROGERSHmm. Okay, well, taking the first question first, I mean, my sincere recommendation is that let market forces apply here. Because, again, looking at the airlines that we operate on, 50 percent, half of those airlines do not operate voice by default. So the airlines have taken the decision based on what it believes to be the requirements of its passengers. So there you can't use your voice service on those aircraft.

  • 12:40:05

    ROGERSAnd again, just to stress where voice is allowed, the number of calls are very small. And in the six years that we and our competition have been operating the service, we haven't had any issues with respect to issues in the cabin. So basically, let market forces apply. And I strongly believe that the U.S. airlines won't allow voice anyway, even if the DOT decides not to regulate it.

  • 12:40:29

    NNAMDIIs that because of a cultural difference, in your view?

  • 12:40:33

    ROGERSWell, I haven't got too much longer on this call to make my -- to express all my views here. I'm not convinced there's a cultural difference. I think these questions have come up elsewhere in Europe, they've come up elsewhere in the world. But the regulators just step back and allow the airlines to make the decision. I wouldn't say there's a big cultural difference from my experiences. I think that there's other factors at play in the states, which are causing this debate to take place.

  • 12:40:59

    NNAMDIKevin Rogers is the CEO of AeroMobile. He joined us by phone from London. Kevin, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:41:05

    ROGERSThank you.

  • 12:41:06

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we continue this Tech Tuesday conversation on should the U.S. allow phone calls on planes? You can call us at 800-433-8850. What tech capabilities would you like to see on planes? Would you boycott an airline that allowed passengers to make phone calls in flight? 800-433-8850 or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:42:14

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our Tech Tuesday conversation on whether or not the U.S. should allow phone calls on planes. We're talking with Charles Leocha. He is chairman and founder of Travelers United. Steve Nolan is director of communications from Gogo. He joins us from studios at WLS in Chicago. And Julie Frederick is government affairs representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and an international flight attendant for American Airlines with over 30 years of flying experience. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Steve Nolan, I'm afraid we didn't get you in on the discussion about voice calls in the U.S. What is your view?

  • 12:42:52

    NOLANYeah, I mean, I think our view is pretty simple. I mean the market has really spoken on this. I mean our airline partners clearly do not want it. And our -- we've heard loud and clear from passengers that they don't want it. One service though that we do offer today is text messaging. And we basically work through T-Mobile that allows passengers who are T-Mobile customers to text message for free in the air, just like they would from the ground. So the technology has existed for a while to do it. But we haven't, you know, really wanted to do it because the, like I said, the market has really spoken on this one.

  • 12:43:28

    NNAMDIWell, let's see how divided our listeners are on this issue. We got a post on our website from Dave, who said, "No way would I want to be on a planeload of flyers yapping on their phone." And email from Scott who says, "I do not want to be stuck next to someone yammering on their cellphone. Flying in an airplane is irritating enough as it is. Let them text. But it's noisy enough." Tweet from Nicole, who says, "Airplane etiquette is bad enough these days. I can't imagine how insufferable flights would be with cellphone use." A tweet from Grace, who says, "I'm not interested in listening to other people's phone calls while trapped at 30,000 feet."

  • 12:43:59

    NNAMDIAnd an email from George, who says, "Traveling in a cramped cabin is already unpleasant enough. I can hardly imagine a greater nuisance than having to hear other passengers' phone conversations during a flight, other than perhaps the first and last five minutes of a flight." What do you think about that, Julie, the first and last five minutes?

  • 12:44:16

    FREDERICKWell, again, that's certainly a challenge in connectivity. And perhaps the technology people can speak to that more clearly. I -- you know, it's difficult to connect while you're too close to the ground. But again, it's an enforcement issue that puts flight attendants in the unenviable position of trying to regulate the cabin. We know that passenger misconduct incidences are on the rise. Certainly it's because our cabins are more and more at capacity every day. And it's just not -- we anticipate that, should voice calls be permitted, that those passenger misconducts will rise.

  • 12:44:51

    FREDERICKCertainly there was a recent incident with the knee defender. Personal space is an absolute issue for everybody. And the knee defender created a situation where an aircraft had to make an unscheduled landing as a result of a passenger misconduct, because someone's space was invaded. And I think voice calls would certainly do the same thing. And more importantly, I was thinking, regarding NextGen, which is certainly something that we're looking at, particularly with the next FAA reauthorization bill. Our position is that the customer experience and the comfort of our passengers, for our business passengers in particular, that they do want to stay connected and we believe that they're able to do so.

  • 12:45:29

    FREDERICKIn fact, very few people -- I spoke to a recent graduate from U.C. Berkeley School of Information, and he said he uses very little voice communication any more. He's on WiFi and he's on text through his computer. So we don't think that it's putting our business passengers at a disadvantage because they can stay connected.

  • 12:45:48

    NNAMDICharlie, your group conducted a survey on the question of allowing phone calls on planes. Allow me to ask you what now seems to be a completely redundant question. Who did you ask and what were the responses?

  • 12:45:59

    LEOCHAWell, we...

  • 12:45:59

    FREDERICKYeah.

  • 12:45:59

    LEOCHA...we went out to readers of our newsletters and we got the response basically that came out to something like 98.5 percent that said, no, we absolutely don't want to have cellphone calls. However, we then asked another question. And the question was, if you could choose to be on a flight with cellphone calls or without cellphone calls, what would you choose. And in that case, 65 percent of the people said that they would choose to not be on a flight with cellphone calls, and 35 percent said, oh, that they wouldn't mind being on a flight where they could choose to make cellphone calls. So when you ask the questions different ways, you end up with slightly different situations.

  • 12:46:46

    LEOCHAAnd if we go back a little bit to the knee-defender issue, it's not really the knee defender that was causing the problem. The problems are caused because we have an aviation system where they're trying to put as many people as possible into airplanes. They keep squeezing us close together. And I spoke with the CEO of one of the low-cost carriers and they actually acknowledged that they're pushing the edges of this. That nobody can sit this close together for more than about two hours. And that's on airlines where they only have 28 inches of pitch. And so they know that that's a problem and they know that it's leading to misconduct or air rage. And it's sort of like we're flying in an airborne Petri dish here. It's a big test case.

  • 12:47:32

    NNAMDISteve, the FCC says it would consider allowing passengers to use cellular service above 10,000 feet. How would the technology work? Could I just turn on my phone and use my Verizon service to call home from my seat?

  • 12:47:44

    NOLANWell, not using our technology. There's two technologies that you could use to deliver cellphone service in the air or make voice calls available to passengers in the air. One of them is what AeroMobile had to referred to earlier, which is putting a picocell on a plane, which basically is like putting a mini cell tower on the plane that will allow the cellular connection. The other is what -- the way we do it today is we enable a service called WiFi calling. And it's similar to what T-Mobile offers right now, which basically just allows you to use your phone just the way you would on the ground over the WiFi network.

  • 12:48:19

    NOLANAnd that's the technology we prefer to use, mainly because you really don't have to touch a plane that already has Gogo service on it to enable it. It's an application-based service. So as I mentioned before, the technology has existed for a while. It just requires somebody to download an application to do it. But again, to reiterate, there's just no market for it right now for voice calls. Now, we see a tremendous opportunity for text messaging. And our partnership with T-Mobile has been going very well. And the passengers who have discovered it are really in favor of the ability to send text messages.

  • 12:48:53

    NNAMDIJulie, when it comes to voice phone calls, in addition to the nuisance factor, what are the security concerns about enabling real-time, air-to-ground phone calls during flight?

  • 12:49:04

    FREDERICKWell, certainly during situation where we have to have full passenger attention, we think that it could be a -- certainly a distraction. It's difficult enough to have passengers pay attention to the safety and security messages that are brought onboard. And in the event of an incident, we are the last line of defense to the cockpit and we need to have full passengers' attention. So that's definitely a concern. I might add that in 2005, when this was last revisited, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI also wrote position statements saying that they were opposed to that. With this most recent round of reconsideration, I haven't really heard from any of those agencies and what their position may be.

  • 12:49:50

    FREDERICKSo again, we think that this needs to be revisited and explored more thoroughly before any consideration takes place allowing voice calls onboard the aircraft.

  • 12:50:00

    NNAMDIHere is Tim in Fairfax, Va. Tim, your turn.

  • 12:50:04

    TIMHi. My comment is just that, you know, if it is deemed to be safe, I would expect that, you know, it's not something that your federal regulators should really decide about. It should be up to the airlines and really up to the rules of social norms to decide what our behavior is. I mean, if people find it a nuisance, I would think that people generally wouldn't do it, actually. I mean, if you think of places where you do make phone calls in public places, I mean, you know, I don't tend to make one in public places because I think it's kind of rude to do so. So I mean I think people won't do it as much as people are thinking. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I just haven't...

  • 12:50:46

    NNAMDIA lot of people argue, like Tim does, that once the safety issues are resolved, the government should butt out, leave the decision to the individual airlines. But Julie, you'd like to see a national policy banning voice calls while in the air. Why?

  • 12:50:59

    FREDERICKWell, because I think for the passenger experience, we know that it's frustrating right now, we hear, and I'm sure Charlie could speak to that, the inconsistency with the pricing mechanisms that are currently in place with the cafeteria style of pricing. And to the extent that we can provide a consistent experience for passengers that get onboard the aircraft, it's going to be better not only for those cabin crew that are working the aircraft, but for the passengers themselves. We saw this with, actually, e-cigarettes for a short period of time. It was inconsistent and the Department of Transportation stepped in and made a consistent policy that banned it.

  • 12:51:37

    FREDERICKEvery day, flight attendants deal with carry-on baggage. Once again, it's a very inconsistent policy. Passengers get onboard and said, but I was able to do it on my last flight. Why can't I do it on this flight? So I think it's a disservice, because people do not know what they're going to expect when they get on the aircraft. So for that reason, along with many others, we think there should be a consistent policy across aviation.

  • 12:51:59

    NNAMDICharlie Leocha.

  • 12:52:01

    LEOCHAWell, I mean, I agree that we should have some sort of policy that would be consistent. But I really think that the Department of Transportation right now has more than enough on its plate. I don't -- and after being in Washington now about six years working on these different issues, I'm not sure that the way to go would be with a DOT kind of policy. And I think that the airlines probably would be able to maintain control over this. And they'd be able to test it and see how things work. Where cellphone use might be okay on business-type flights, might be okay just for short times. But it's something which we can play with and see what the public really wants.

  • 12:52:41

    NNAMDIHere, now, is Cheryl in Severna Park, Md. Cheryl, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:52:47

    CHERYLHello. I am a 38-year trans-Atlantic flight attendant, currently flying. And I agree with Julie that this is something that -- not -- as a flight attendant, as a crew member, we think it would be a nightmare to handle. It's hard enough when the passengers cannot recline their seats and still lower their tray tables and have a nice meal. But the idea of people being able to talk on their cellphones, even on short flights -- which, if you're stuck on a runway, you could -- a two-hour flight could be a four-hour flight. It just -- it scares us, frankly, to think about this. Thank you.

  • 12:53:29

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call underscoring Julie Frederick's sentiment. We got an email from Joshua, who says, "If this is an addition network service that may or may not be provided by the airline, who absorbs the costs of providing it? Would the service increase the costs of flying? If so, will it be an optional add-on for those not intending to utilize the service?" Do you know, Charlie Leocha?

  • 12:53:52

    LEOCHAWell, basically, the way that it's set up is that it would be an additional cost to the person using the service. And that's what would happen with it. The airlines could set their own price. There'll be a roaming charge, which as I understand it in discussions with the AeroMobile people, there's a roaming charge just like you were -- if you were in a foreign country. The little airplane becomes like a flying little country. And then the airlines are allowed to add something on top of that if they wanted to. So it's going to become another profit center from the airlines' point of view.

  • 12:54:23

    NNAMDIIf you've had experience with roaming charges, you know what to expect. What happens now, Julie? What's the timeline for a decision on this issue?

  • 12:54:31

    FREDERICKThe sooner the better, as far as we're concerned.

  • 12:54:33

    NNAMDI(laugh) Charlie, do you know what the timeline for a decision?

  • 12:54:36

    LEOCHANo. They've come out with an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. But they have not come out with a final rulemaking yet. And then that will probably be put up for comment over a period of time. So if we expect anything, it will probably be in effect towards the end of next year.

  • 12:54:53

    NNAMDIAnd Steve Nolan, what are you expecting? That the markets would determine this?

  • 12:54:57

    NOLANYeah. I mean, we very much think that the market will determine it. And then one point that I wanted to clarify is, through a service like we would provide, there's many business models to it. You wouldn't have to pay roaming charges if it went through the WiFi network like we do it now.

  • 12:55:10

    NNAMDITrue.

  • 12:55:11

    NOLANBut you also -- the business model could run the gamut. The airlines could pay for it. We could pay for it and charge the passenger. Or in the case of like a T-Mobile, we could have a third-party who would pay for it as well. So there's various ways that it...

  • 12:55:22

    NNAMDISteve Nolan is director of communications for Gogo. Charles Leocha is chairman and founder of Travelers United. Julie Frederick is government affairs representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. She an international flight attendant for American Airlines with over 30 years of flying experience. Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:55:53

    NNAMDIComing up tomorrow on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," Obamacare round two. Federal and state healthcare exchanges open with fewer technical bumps but new political challenges. Then, at 1:00, going beyond local. James Beard Award-Winning chef, Sean Brock is reviving regional Southern dishes from the past. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," noon till 2:00 tomorrow on WAMU 88.5 and streaming at kojoshow.org.

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