Great news, holiday and business travelers. Soon, you might hear your flight attendant utter this pre-flight instruction: “At this time, please turn on all portable electronics and return trays and seats to their upright locked positions…” The Federal Aviation Administration just announced that “airplanes can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight”—that includes takeoff and landing.
For the last 50 years, passengers have been urged to shut off portable electronic devices (PEDs) when planes are below 10,000 feet to avoid interfering with cockpit equipment during takeoff and landing. But the FAA determined that most commercial planes can tolerate radio interference from PEDs. Those devices include e-readers and portable gaming devices and smartphones set to “airplane mode.” Yep, talking on the phone (as well as texting) is still prohibited, but who can get a good reception 30,000 feet above ground anyway? (Use of WiFi and Bluetooth is OK.)
Of course, the FAA did note an exception during its October 31 press conference: “In some instances of low visibility, about 1% of flights, some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference. In those cases, passengers may be asked to turn off devices.”
The FAA issued “implementation guidelines” to U.S. airlines flying domestic and international routes. And while individual airlines still need to conduct tests to confirm that their fleet can indeed handle the interference, Delta hopes to ease these restrictions as early as Friday, November 1—pending FAA approval.
So now you’ll be able to stow away the SkyMall and bust out your Blackberry—without experiencing any in-flight turbulence from your flight attendant.