Good news for the productivity-obsessed (or Candy Crush fans): the FAA is close to issuing new rules for consumer electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. While you (likely) will still be banned from making phone calls, you may be soon be able to continue editing that memorandum or reading our blogs through in-flight Wi-Fi, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The current rule, which requires stowage of all electronic devices, whether it be a cell phone, MP3 player, or tablet, at any point under 10,000 feet, was a byproduct of the 1960s. The FAA worried that electromagnetic interference from devices would interfere with radar and communication equipment. They created guidelines, which airlines readily accepted.
We all know that is a load of crap. Other countries allow electronic devices and even cell phone calls while in air, with no reports of a cell phone taking down a plane. Nonetheless, the flight attendants get real testy if you try to make a call before plane is parked at the gate, with the doors open.
According to the Journal, one of the biggest reasons for the change was us. Annoying passengers were disregarding the instructions and leaving devices on. One survey found that one in three passengers had "accidently" left a device on throughout a flight at some point in their lives. Plus, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and ultra-thin laptops, more people are packing portable consumer electronics.
With more of us clamoring for our iPads during takeoff, the FAA began to worry about the possibility of airlines issuing their own policies. The 1960s guidelines were advisory. Airlines, free to adopt their own rules, chose to follow the FAA rules anyway. Now, with customers' opinions leaning the other way, there was a good chance of change, either universally through the FAA, or individually, through fractured airline-specific rules.
We'd also wonder if the increase in availability of in-flight Wi-Fi has anything to do with this. Paying for access might be more tempting if it covers the entire flight, rather than the thirty minutes or so that the plane is above 10,000 feet during quick jaunt down the coast. Equip your airplanes with Wi-Fi, allow constant use of devices, and you have a new revenue stream apart from charging for luggage.
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