Good news for travelers: the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance. Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions, FAA said.
Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, the FAA said, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.
The FAA said it based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.
Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll.
Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards, FAA says.
This could force flight attendants to make sure passengers are complying with the regulations—a difficult task when it is hard to see if a device is in flight mode or not. Heather Poole, a flight attendant and writer, agreed that the new rules will be difficult to enforce, but that this is "no different than before...It's going to be impossible to tell who's texting and who's playing a game."
“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”
“I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs on airplanes,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.