The official word is in: you'll now be able to use many of your electronic devices during all phases of flight.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is safe for airlines to allow passengers expanded use of their electronic devices from takeoff to landing. The FAA is already guiding airlines on what to do.
“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.”
But this doesn't mean there's free rein to do whatever you want on the plane. There are a few minor restrictions, and they include holding or putting electronics in the back pocket of the seat during actual takeoff and landing; cell phones need to be in airplane mode or cellular service disabled, and cell phones cannot be used for voice communications because that treads in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) area.
The new rules mean that airline passengers are free to use electronics like tablets and e-readers from gate to gate. Implementation is expected to vary from airline to airline, but the FAA is providing guidelines for all of them to avoid confusion.
Many carriers are expected to allow passengers to use their electronics during all phases of flight by the end of the year.
The rules regarding the use of electronics on planes were in need of an update. The rules in place before the FAA's announcement today were set in 1966, when it was believed that electromagnetic interference would cause problems with radios and navigation systems onboard the plane. The general rule is to turn all electronic devices off during takeoffs and landings, and can be turned on once the plane reaches about 10,000 feet.
However, with the flood of portable devices available today, it's nearly impossible to make sure each and every tablet or smartphone is off during takeoffs and landings.
That's why the FAA created the advisory board in August 2012. Not only was it looking for recommendations, but also didn't want each airline to create a different set of rules that would confuse passengers.
In June of this year, the 28-member panel consisting of government, industry and pilot union representatives released its draft recommendations saying that the weak wireless signals and tighter range of frequencies from electronic devices are not enough to interfere with plane systems. Approved devices, such as e-readers, could even be used during all phases of the flight.
Later in September, The New York Times reported that an advisory panel for the FAA was meeting to finish its recommendations concerning electronics use onboard planes. These recommendations were given to the FAA at the end of the month.
The old rules seemed to cause more harm than good. For instance, a 68-year-old man punched a 15-year-old on a plane when the teenager refused to turn off his smartphone during a flight. According to the man, he was doing it to save the entire plane from any harmful consequences.
Another passenger was arrested in El Paso when he decided not to turn off his cell phone during landing. In yet another instance, a passenger did the same when landing in New York and a swarm of cop cars were waiting for him once he exited the plane.
Of course, many also remember the incident where Alec Baldwin was kicked off a plane in 2011 for playing Words With Friends.