Consider this (live) story the oddest one I’ve seen involving an app since Alec Baldwin got thrown off of a flight for playing Words With Friends.

It appears that the founder of social VoIP and free texting app Viber has been told that using the VoIP feature of the service to make calls during a flight has been “banned by the FAA” and that they will be contacting the police once the plane has landed:

 

Talmon Marco could be locked up for using his own app, it seems:

 

While this might sound absolutely ridiculous, there is such a precedence in place for this type of thing. GigaOm reported in 2008 that VoIP was frowned upon on flights in the U.S., but doesn’t mention anything about it being banned by the FAA.

According to the FAA, this is a preference of the airlines, not the agency:

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.

Here’s the story right from Marco himself via email:

Just touched down on a Delta flight (DL1204) from New Orleans to LA Guardia. Was using GoGo in flight WiFi on my iPhone and made a Viber call (I run Viber Media, the company behind Viber).

At some point a flight attendant shows up and says I cannot make phone calls on the plane. I explained my cell was off and this was Viber. She said VoIP is also not allowed and I can only text. Claiming it’s an FAA rule. I told her there is no such rule so she decided I was getting difficult.

She then calls another flight attendant who says it is not the FAA but gogo terms of service.. When I asked why did they say it’s FAA he also decided I was being difficult, handed me an FAA flier and when I took a picture of it he said he was going to call the cops at LGA.

We’ll see if they are outside.

I was very polite, no raising my voice, no cursing, no abuse whatsoever.

We’ll be watching the situation and will let you know if Marco actually faces a criminal charge for using his app. It seems like the flight attendant mis-spoke though, as the ban is simply to block the annoyance of speaking out loud for other passengers.

UPDATE: The police was indeed called by Delta and here’s what happened next:

Ok.. The cops filled a report and let me go. They were pretty rude to begin with – “they tell you to turn off devices, that’s what you do.. “. Took several minutes until I managed to convey the fact I was on an “approved electronic device” at above 10k ft. in flight mode using their own service..

Eventually they said they actually don’t think it’s a problem..