First U.S. Air Carrier Now Allows Inflight Internet Calling, Is It Ok To Chat Away?

JSX planes have StarLink internet which I’ve found to be crazy fast, with low latency. That’s not just great for checking email and web browsing. It also works for video conferencing. And they’re the first carrier certified by FAA to allow it.

So when you fly JSX you can use Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, or your other app of choice – to participate in a meeting at work, call home at dinner time or bed time, and to… annoy your fellow passengers?

JSX sells scheduled flights that depart from and arrive at private terminals, so you can show up 20 minutes prior to departure and don’t have TSA hassles. They have 37 planes currently flying and are adding a new aircraft every six weeks. United, JetBlue, and Qatar Airways are investors in the premium carrier that offers comfortable seats, free drinks and snacks, and free high speed internet.

In fact their inflight internet works better than any other I’ve experienced on the three flights I’ve tried it so far. I’ve seen download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, and most importantly very low latency. There’s just not been any pauses or delays while I’ve used it. Here’s the first speed test I did:

The carrier hasn’t publicly rolled out the ability to make video calls yet, and says they are a few weeks from doing so. And on one of my recent JSX flights the flight attendant actually announced that this wasn’t permitted. JSX’s CEO tells me, however, that it’s already allowed.

Passengers frequently react negatively to the idea of inflight calling, but it seems like JSX is uniquely positioned to execute this well,

  • Ambient noise on their fleet of Embraer regional jets effectively cancels noise. Even if you’re not wearing noise-cancelling headsets this aircraft tends to be louder and does it for you.

  • Passengers aren’t right next to each other – most of their planes have 1-1 seating (one passenger at each window, no one next to you).

  • There are only 30 passengers per aircraft, what other passengers are doing matters more in a denser configuration.

Most importantly since this is the only carrier on which you can do it you very much have choice, if it’s actually important to you to avoid the possibility of zooming inflight you can fly a scheduled commercial airline.

In their testing they say they’ve “found that people are quieter on this than they are when speaking with other people on the flight” and they will “have etiquette rules” around inflight calling as part of their roll out.

If you’re worried about choice going away, that this is merely the first, remember that major U.S. airlines have already said that they won’t allow inflight cell phone use even if the FAA permits it as it is, in order to accommodate what they see as customer preference. They have passengers crammed in next to each other where this might not work as well.

I’ve actually been positive on the idea for a decade. Numerous airlines around the world allow inflight cell phone use on board, and the parade of horribles many worry about never happened. And calls can be really important.

Amtrak lets people use cell phones with passengers confined closely together. People talk to each other on planes now and those around them hear it! Sometimes the conversations you hear are even interesting. Meanwhile conversations can be truly important for instance the woman who might have been able to stop a suicide if she could have used her phone inflight.

StarLink internet is free on board JSX. It works better than even ViaSat in the three flights on which I’ve used it. And now you can use it for internet voice and video calling. You won’t be able to escape work, just because you’re in the air. And you won’t be able to use flying as an excuse not to talk to your family, either. Personally I think it’s great to have this option. Do you agree or disagree?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There used to be this thing call “Airphones”. Around 2001. Something famous happened with them. Other than airlines making a buck on them.

  2. If you are making a personal call, it can wait until you touch down. If it’s a business call…what are you thinking?

    I hate the idea of calls on any form of public transportation.

  3. “I’ve actually been positive on the idea for a decade. Numerous airlines around the world allow inflight cell phone use on board, and the parade of horribles many worry about never happened. And calls can be really important.”
    I’m always sus when writers promote such a stupid idea as the FAA allowing phone calls on commercial aircraft. If it’s that important to be available 100% at the time, you can use many apps that will allow you to be in contact via texts, so your argument is silly at best. Can you imagine being on an A380 and we are all on our phones bi*ching about whatever. Yes, please I want to sit on my next 30 hrs. flight to South Africa close by someone on the phone. If you think travel is rough now, just wait.

  4. Amtrak has a quiet car. On a plane you wouldn’t have a choice. Though airlines could monetize it – charge more for a quiet section? Or more for a talking section?

  5. It seems you suggest conference calls are exclusive of JSX.
    I have been doing Zoom calls on planes for some time on regular airlines!

    Video / audio streams are allowed as long as you are subscribing to the right plan/pass

  6. I think it is a terrible change to allow phone calls during flight.

    While some passengers will be polite and keep their voice low, there are many people that are so dense they believe they must shout while using a telephone.

    Arguments will surely happen resulting from loud talking while some passengers try to sleep.

  7. There is always some rude clown flapping his jaw out loud on the plane. They think they are more important than others.

  8. No calls. People will be chatting all night on overnight flights. Way to close to others.

  9. Hate this idea. Loud jet canceling out sound of calls? No, more like people shouting louder because…loud jet. In the day of AirPhones, it could be miserable sitting next to some insufferable person yakking about their deals or cases all the way from NY to LA. Texting and messaging, yes all for it. Voice calls, just say no.

  10. Nice -looking plane in the JSX picture. Unfortunately both times I flew them to LAX the plane was 2 seats on either side and very old.
    Also, it can take 30 minutes to get from runway 24 R to the Signature terminal on the far side of the field.
    ..and we were told the internet wasn’t working on the flight.

  11. @oungeabuser – the Embraer 135s are 1-2, the 145s are 1×1. Eventually the 135s, which are a minority of the fleet and mostly flying short hops in California, will retire.

  12. I’m cool with it in the Part 135 arena. You pay for the convenience and connectivity and aren’t jammed in like sardines. On the other hand, being on stuck in coach on a full Part 121 carrier with half of the plane yacking on their phones sounds like one of Dante’s stages of hell.

  13. I’ve been interested in this company. @Gary, you just guaranteed I’ll never fly them.

  14. Ban it because too many people are inconsiderate.
    Otherwise It should only be allowed in a sound isolated phone booth installed on board with a time limit for each person.

  15. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bad idea for regular planes. It will end awfully. Even the whole concept of internet on planes is really just absurd. Take a break. Disconnect. It’s (formerly) the one place you can escape and zone out for a wile. There is no NEED to have any type of connectivity on planes. It’s nice for some things, but really not needed. Maybe on private or semi-private jets ok, but on commercial aircraft where people are crammed in, it’s just more drama waiting to happen. The carriers today say they won’t do it, but if they can make a tenth of a penny on it you bet they will do it.

    Have good IFE and call it a day. Nothing is really ‘that’ important that something can’t wait.

  16. Just drop by any Admirals club and you will see the loud, over important people on speaker phones chewing out one employee or another. This is such a bad idea on so many levels. I agree with the majority above.

  17. When I was selling in the 80’s, we used to run off the plane to make phone calls to check on our messages. BUT, when on the plane, I had downtime. I didn’t have to tell anyone on the spot what I just sold. As far as I was concerned, it was my downtime. I would usually catch the red eye from Seattle to Atlanta, and then to anywhere on the east coast. Then I did my biz all week long. I could call from hotel during the week. The world, or my company did not fold because I was out of touch for a few hours.
    Any one who thought the bosses needed to know was truly delusional.

  18. In an emergency or urgent situation a person making a SHORT call is permissible.
    We all know that once in-flight calling is allowed, the ignorant are going to blab on-and-on excessively and uncontrollably.
    It will turn into an in-flight riot at some point when someone has had enough of hearing ‘ol Big Mouth talk loudly about his new lawn furniture.

  19. NO! The one bastion of quiet is on an airplane. Can you imagine having to set adjacent to some motormouth for more that 30 seconds? It’s bad enough in a restaurant but say on an international flight? HELL NO! IF…IF other airlines offer inflight cell phone usage…the QUIET SECTION is FREE and SPACIOUS. Let the jabber mouths sit WAY IN THE BACK.. behind the engines and charge a HUGE premium for THAT SECTION.

  20. Terrible idea. “…found that people are quieter on this than they are when speaking with other people on the flight”. I have been on numerous overnight flights when trying to sleep and the ringing of phones to take Facetime etc calls drives me crazy. No way will people be courteous about it and as another poster said people will talk louder above the noise. Heaven forbid if they don’t wear headphones…

  21. Swell. Now we will be able to get blow by blow narratives of the cabin fights.

  22. not necessary. it’s one of the rare times I can escape from work and even that’s mostly gone with texting and email. And this would be a disaster from what i’ve observed at WeWork as many people have no compunction about shouting into their phones when others are near.

  23. Absolutely not. People are increasingly unconcerned about how their actions affect others. It’s all me, me, me. Beyond me why airlines would even consider this.

  24. BAAAD as in a BAD idea. Ban phone use on planes. In this day and age of the over-abuse of “freedom of choice” and “the right to do anything one wishes” unencumbered, phone use should not apply when one is airborne. One can shout his/her lungs out when his/her legs are firmly planted on the ground. We don’t need a loudmouth town crier inside the cabin of an airline.

  25. The thought of being stuck with a lot of people on phones is nauseating. We have problems in the air already. Because other countries allow it has nothing to do with us. We, as a society are not disciplined to respect others as some other places are.

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