If you were excited that the advent of in-flight WiFi would enable you to make unlimited calls during your flight, think again, as you may end up being greeted by the cops at your destination as a result of some overzealous, and misinformed, flight attendants.
This is precisely what happened to Talmon Marco, the CEO and founder of Viber, a VoIP app. While making a call on his app over the in-flight WiFi on a Delta flight from New Orleans to NYC. After being asked by a flight attendant to disconnect his call, Talmon explained he was using a VoIP and not his cell phone. The flight attendant insisted that VoIP were also not allowed based on FAA regulations. After Talmon informed her that is was not against FAA regulations, and being informed of such by another flight attendant, Talmon asked them why he was initially told VoIP calls are against FAA regulations. Both flight attendants agreed that at this point Talmon was being difficult, and informed him the cops would be waiting for him at La Guardia. Upon his arrival, Talmon was in fact greeted by the police, who after filing a report let him go on his way.
For future reference, the FAA does discuss VoIP calls in flight, pointing out that it is the airlines who wish to prevent the usage of VoIP over in-flight WiFi in consideration of other passengers:
While passengers are welcome to access the web, U.S. airlines offering WiFi service block the use of inflight calling using Skype or similar applications. This is not an FAA restriction; they are simply responding to the overwhelming majority of their customers, who prefer silent communications to the public nature of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) calls.
I can commiserate with the airlines’ desire to prevent people from chatting the whole flight, as there are many inconsiderate people who have trouble controlling the volume of their voice and the amount of time spent on a call. Having lived in New York for a number of years, you cannot compare the deathly silence of the subway to the bus, which always seems to have some loud, obnoxious individual who ensures that everyone knows what he/she had for breakfast that morning and how rude the server was. But note that the FAA mentions that airlines “block the use of inflight calling”. In this case, the app was not disabled. I do think the airlines should be free to block and prohibit Skype or other VoIP apps, but there should be a clear warning before purchasing the in-flight WiFi that the use of VoIP is disabled and/or prohibited, and not just in the ToS that no one reads anyways.
Also, flight attendants need to know the rules before making requests of their customers.