Coming soon to an airliner near you: cell phones, tablets, laptops…all the time. No phone calls just yet, but I suspect that is just around the corner too. This isn’t a done deal just yet, but after years of passengers flouting electronic prohibitions, change is around the corner.
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and landings, according to industry officials and draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to the agency.
For fliers, the new rules would likely mean an end to familiar admonitions to turn off and stow all electronic devices. Cellphone calls are expected to remain off limits, however. The draft doesn’t make any recommendations regarding phone use because the FAA didn’t authorize the panel to delve into that particularly controversial area.
I say it is about time. In fact, it shocks me that–
The experts who wrote the draft referred to recent industry research showing that nearly one-third of passengers reported that, at least once, they accidentally left some device on throughout a flight.
Only one third? While people turn of their screens or close their laptops, since the advent of “airplane mode” I cannot recall ever seeing passengers actually power done laptops or mobile devices. Many don’t even bother to put cell phones in non-transmit mode. And perhaps even more egregious, from my first class aisle seat I routinely see flight crews–both pilots and FAs, but particularly pilots–using their electronic devices even when passengers are asked to turn theirs off.
The change will not happen overnight–more tests need to be done and clearance to use electronic devices will vary by aircraft and at the discretion of the captain.
For those planes with limited built-in protections, passengers would be told to power off devices until they are advised it is safe to hit the on switch.
On many other planes, flight attendants would give the green light to use certain electronics from gate to gate, except in rare instances when the captain asks they be turned off because they could interfere with certain types of instrument landings.
And according to the draft report, passengers on the third category of planes would hear the following announcement: “This aircraft tolerates emissions from electrical devices for all phases of flight.”
I look forward to the day we can actually have an argument on whether to have “quiet sections” or “non-cell phone” sections on airplanes. Fifty-year-old regulations prohibiting electronic devices over unfounded fears of electromagnetic interference are ripe for revision. I will welcome the new in-flight announcements.