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Reminder: You Still Can't Make Phone Calls on a Flight

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© Illustration by Brown Bird Design

By Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler

On planes, most of us keep our phones on long after we're supposed to—but we wouldn't dare make a call for fear of getting reprimanded. Not everyone cares as much, apparently: New Zealand transport minister Phil Twyford tried to sneak in one last call as his Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Wellington was taxiing on the runway, and now he's paying the price. The country's Civil Aviation Authority fined the official—whose main job, ironically, is regulating aviation and train travel—$340 for his three-minute chat, The Associated Press reports.

[post_ads]The Kiwis are not alone in this rule. In the U.S., allowing in-flight calls was up in the air for a bit in the early 2010s, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was deciding whether or not to overturn its 1991 ban on calls during flight. Originally, the ban was to prevent cell phones' mobile frequencies from causing planes' electronic systems to malfunction. The FCC first suggested overturning the in-flight call ban because cell phone technology has advanced to the point where that's no longer a concern. But, using a phone off airplane mode in-flight can still cause audible interference on the aircraft’s radios, where pilots hear what sounds kind of like a CD skipping. It's annoying to them, but not life-threatening. And while there's no posted $340 fine in the U.S.'s regulations, the FCC's policy says, "The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine." Subtext? That phone call to your boo probably isn't worth it.

In 2016, the agency officially announced it was sticking with its original ban, and that we'd (thankfully) be spared from in-flight chit-chat for the foreseeable future. Once the plane's doors on a domestic flight are shut, it's no calls 'til landing. But outside the U.S., you're not always free of Chatty Cathys: At least 24 airlines, including Emirates, allow in-flight calls over Wi-Fi, which eliminates mechanical interference. Better bring your noise-canceling headphones.

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