Are cell phone calls on airplane flights inevitable?

(CNN) — Ah, holiday travel. Between huge crowds and weather delays, flying during this time of year is hectic. Now close your eyes and imagine the entire scenario with one additional annoyance: Loud talkers yammering into their cell phones at 35,000 feet.

Don’t worry — this potentially ear-splitting scenario isn’t a reality yet. At least not in the United States. But it could be soon. Some even say it’s just a year or two away.

The technology to support midair cell phone calls exists right now.

Just about every plane that offers WiFi has the bandwidth to support voice over the internet, and several international airlines allow voice calls on certain routes already. Still, at least on domestic US flights, voice calls are forbidden for four distinct reasons: flight attendants, public perception, concerns about safety and US law.

Airline officials won’t even consider in-flight cell-phone calls until or unless they feel there is overwhelming demand from customers to provide the service, according to Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry analysis firm in San Francisco. Even then, airlines still may not cave in.

“No matter how you look at it, allowing cell phone calls on planes is controversial,” he says. “These are precisely the kinds of issues airlines tend to avoid addressing unless they must.”

Without question, flight attendants are the biggest barrier to allowing voice calls in the air.

Pretty much across the board, people who work in airplane cabins say the idea of allowing passengers unfettered in-flight phone use would lead to chaos, conflict and downright craziness in flight. As such, they oppose phone use vociferously.

Flight attendants are already tasked with managing overhead bin use, monitoring drink intake among unruly passengers and mediating fights between seat-recliners and passengers who don’t recline.

Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, says her colleagues don’t want to take on any more policing of passengers’ social behaviors.

“We are strongly against voice calls on planes,” she wrote in a recent email. In another, she doubled down with all caps: “NO CELL PHONES.”

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