The days of starting blankly into space during airline take-offs and landings are just about over. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with guidance on implementing the new rules.
Because of differences among aircraft and operating policies, rules will vary among airlines but the FAA says it expects that most carriers will be able to allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.
The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.
“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”
Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll.
Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow welcomed the announcement.
“We’re pleased the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” Dow said. “The Obama administration deserves credit for common-sense, ‘win-win’ policies like this, as well as the implementation of Automated Passport Control and the expansion of programs such as Visa Waiver and Pre-Check.
“The travel community is grateful, because what’s good for the traveler is good for travel-related businesses and our economy. It’s this kind of forward thinking that will enable us to remain among the leading industries in growth and job creation.”
The FAA's committee concluded that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from the devices. Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones—at all altitudes.
In rare instances of low-visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.
The FAA said it did not consider changing the regulations regarding the use of cell phones for voice communications during flight because the issue is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).