Thursday, October 31, 2013

Power Up

FAA Says Fliers Can Use Devices During All Phases of Flight:

Federal aviation regulators on Thursday unveiled steps to lift restrictions on fliers' electronic devices, concluding that tablets, e-readers and other gadgets generally can be used during all phases of flight by the end of this year.

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision, embracing recent recommendations by a high-level agency advisory group, effectively ends years of safety debates over the use of the devices. The FAA said it is providing airlines with guidelines to carry out the new policy.

The agency said it expects many carriers to be able to allow their fliers to use devices gate to gate by yearend. Specific implementation plans and timetables will vary among airlines, the FAA said.

The new rules require passengers to hold electronic items or put them in the seatback pocket during takeoffs and landings.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections will be allowed below 10,000 feet, but the agency said cell phones must be switched to airplane mode for the entirety of flights, as inflight cellular signals remain banned by the Federal Communication Commission.

This is welcome news and the implementation schedule is actually much sooner than I expected. Being able to use a tablet or e-reader throughout the flight is admittedly a minor luxury, but after years of air travel becoming increasingly painful and less comfortable, any step in the other direction deserves to be celebrated. And combined with other improvements such as the Global Entry and the TSA Pre Check program which make immigration and security checks more bearable, it’s actually quite reasonable to conclude that things are indeed getting better.

By the way, I’m glad that cell phones still are restricted to airplane mode during flights. While some travelers might view being able to chat during flights as an improvement, for me that would be an added distraction that we simply don’t need.