I don't know what the big debate is about when it comes to making calls from airplanes. USA Today and other media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal all covered what is a religious like debate between the FAA, the FTC and various factions in air travel over the viability, technical capability and passenger disturbance factors surrounding calls while flying.
For starters, it's obvious most of the reporters never flew when we had GTE Airfone in existence. There handsets were scattered two for every three seats or so, and you swiped a credit card or used an account code to make or even eventually receive calls. In its heyday GTE even sold an annual plan for about $1000 a year, paid in advance that provided for unlimited calling, something I subscribed to and used more for data and faxing than for calls as I was flying coast to coast at least twice a month then.
During that era, no one complained to their seatmate for talking on the phone as many of the calls were short, brief and more to reply to a satellite text page that required a bit more detail than the number of characters on them (these reporters likely never had pagers either or forget about them.) The in flight phones were good for things like calling about a flight delay, making a change to transportation, cancelling a hotel room because the flight was being diverted or booking a hotel or rental car when that would happen, or just simply checking in with the office after a five or six hour coast to coast flight as back then, there wasn't Wi-Fi.
In today's era, calling will need some guidelines. Here are some from someone who remembers those days when it wasn't prevented:
- No calls before 7 AM or after 11 PM based on take off time zone. Let's respect the fact the some people may want to sleep
- No calls before 7 AM based on the local time zone of where the plane is heading.
- No Call Rows-in the past we had smoking and no-smoking sections. Let's do the same with the phones in coach.
- Strangling the idiot who is talking non-stop to their seat mate is also permitted if someone wants to do that to the person talking over a Wi-Fi. Otherwise, what's the difference.
- Use of foul language is not permitted. The use of it will allow the Flight Attendant to take away your devices for the duration of the flight.
In reality, an in flight phone call isn't any worse than Big Time Bob telling First Time Betty all that she needs to know about flying, where she's going as he's trying to impress her. The same goes for the non-stop yackers on red-eyes who find it necessary to chat when the person in front or behind them is trying to sleep.
At the end of the day, this all comes down to common sense. As someone who has made calls from aboard planes in the past and even with current technology, it's not the holy war that some are trying to make it.