Friday, November 15, 2013

Restrictions eased for using electronic devices on airplanes

If you’re one of those folks who has to be reminded several times to turn off your phone or iPad when the doors are closed on an airplane, here’s good news.

Now you won’t have to feel guilty about sneaking in a few more minutes of listening to music, reading a book, or watching a movie. And you won’t have to test your patience  waiting for the plane to reach 10,000 feet (currently the altitude above which electronic devices are allowed).

Fewer restrictions now for electronic devices in the air
The FAA has announced that the old guidelines on electronic devices will soon be relaxed during takeoff and landing for airlines that receive approval regarding their safety procedures and have the ability not to be affected by these devices. That means tablets, e-readers, DVD players and video game consoles will be allowed during these phases of flight, although they still need to be in “airplane” mode or have their cellular connection disabled.

Phone calls and texting are still banned. Heavier devices, such as large laptops, that could become projectiles or block exit paths in the event of turbulence or an accident still won’t be allowed. If the flight has installed a Wi-Fi system and allows its use, that’s also permitted. During safety briefings, passengers will still be required (expected?) to put down their devices, along with books and newspapers, and pay attention.

Smart phones and tablets
can be used for extended
times on airplanes.
Rather than set a specific timetable for when passengers will see the device restrictions eased, the FAA is leaving that up to the airlines. Delta Air Lines is among the first to complete carrier-defined PED (personal electronic device) tolerance testing and submit its plan to the FAA for approval.

An important caveat: Regional carriers used by almost all major airlines may not be certified when the affiliate company is. So, even if you book a Delta flight, for instance, if the plane actually belongs to one of its partners, the new rules may not apply.

“It’s going to become more challenging to determine whose device is okay and whose isn’t,” said Kelly Skyles, a 26-year flight attendant and national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that represents cabin crews at American Airlines. “My greatest concern is that it’s going to put flight attendants at risk for more confrontations.”

You can help make their job easier by listening to and following guidelines as announced by flight attendants, especially important during the transition period when different airlines will have different restrictions.
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