WASHINGTON: Airline passengers won’t have to “turn off all electronic devices” anymore — they’ll be able to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music from gate to gate under new guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration. But they still can’t talk on their cellphones through the flight.
Don’t expect the changes to happen immediately, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday at a news conference announcing new rules. How fast will vary by airline.
Delta and JetBlue said they would quickly submit plans to implement the new policy. Airlines will have to show the FAA that their airplanes meet the new guidelines and that they’ve updated their flight-crew training manuals, safety announcements and rules for stowing devices to reflect the new guidelines.
It sounded like good news to passengers heading out from Reagan National Airport on Thursday.
Ketan Patel, 24, said he’s happy that regulators have debunked the idea that the devices pose a safety problem. “If it isn’t a problem, it should be allowed,” he said as he stepped into a security line, a smartphone in his hand.
Monica Lexie, 50, entering the same line, said the change will enable her to use her Kindle to read longer. But then she was never bothered by the restrictions.
“You just shut it off and wait for the little light to go on,” she said. “Our safety takes precedence.”
Currently, passengers are required to turn off their smartphones, tablets and other devices once a plane’s door closes. They’re not supposed to restart them until the planes reach 10,000 feet and the captain gives the go-ahead. Passengers are supposed to turn their devices off again as the plane descends to land and not restart them until it is on the ground.
Under the new guidelines, airlines whose planes are properly protected from electronic interference might allow passengers to use the devices during takeoffs, landings and taxiing, the FAA said. Most new airliners and other planes that have been modified so that passengers can use Wi-Fi at higher altitudes are expected to meet the criteria.
The guidelines reflect the evolution in types and prevalence of devices used by passengers over the past decade. In 2003, 70 percent of passengers carried electronic devices with them on planes, and the most common device was a cellphone that wasn’t capable of connecting to the Internet, followed by a calculator, according to a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association. A follow-up survey by the CEA this year found that 99 percent of passengers carry some device with them, with smartphones the most common.