published Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Delta: No voice calls on our planes

MINNEAPOLIS — Delta Air Lines won't allow passengers to make voice calls from its planes.

Right now, federal rules prohibit voice calls on planes. But the government is indicating that it might loosen those rules. If that happens, it could be up to airlines to set their own policies.

On Wednesday, Delta went ahead and said, in effect, hang up and enjoy the view from 40,000 feet.

CEO Richard Anderson told workers in a memo that the airline will not allow cell calls or internet-based voice communications on mainline or Delta Connection flights, which are operated by other airlines under contract for Delta.

"Our customer research and direct feedback tell us that our frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience," Anderson wrote. A "clear majority" of customers in a 2012 survey last year said the ability to make voice calls would make their experience worse, not better, he wrote.

Anderson also said Delta employees, particularly flight crews, are against allowing calls during flights. Atlanta-based Delta is one of the world's biggest airlines.

The Federal Communications Commission has barred calls. Now the FCC is taking public comments about the idea of relaxing the ban.

However, the Transportation Department is considering banning calls because, it says, the calls would hurt consumers.

A few weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on using personal electronic devices such as iPads and Kindles below 10,000 feet, saying they don't interfere with cockpit instruments.

Delta shares fell 20 cents to $26.74 in morning trading Wednesday. Its shares have more than doubled so far this year.

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