Airlines Relax Use of Portable Electronic Devices During Flights


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Photo Courtesy of Air Moldova
Photo Courtesy of Air Moldova

Last fall, a major shift in policy by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reversed a long standing rule that prohibited the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing of aircraft. For years, passengers were not allowed to use those devices out of fear that they could interfere with communications and navigation systems on the plane, despite studies finding no credible evidence to support those fears. Shortly after the FAA announced its decision, the European Aviation Saftey Agency (EASA) soon followed suit, and within a matter of weeks, airlines were certified to allow the use of electronics throughout their flights. In May, Transport Canada announced that it was lifting the ban as well, giving passengers the opportunity to listen to music, play games, watch movies, and surf the Internet from gate-to-gate.

Before any airline was cleared to allow its passengers to start using their devices during takeoff and landing, the FAA, EASA, and Transportation Canada had to first inspect and certify their aircraft. That quick, and easy process didn’t take long, and within a matter of days, the first airlines were announcing that passengers could continue to use their gadgets at all phases of the flight. In the case of Canadian airlines, that process is still taking place, although both Air Canada and WestJet have passed the inspection process, and are now allowing passengers to continue to use their devices.

Even after the airlines have been certified, there are still a few stipulations on the use of portable electronic devices. For instance, all smartphones, laptops, and tablets need to be in “airplane mode,” which is a setting that deactivates all of the device’s onboard communications systems such as WiFi and cellular radios. This helps to further limit interference with onboard communications systems while inflight. Additionally, all passengers are still prohibited from making cell phone calls while the aircraft is in motion for the same reason.

Photo Courtesy of Air France
Photo Courtesy of Air France

While Canadian airlines are still playing catch-up with their neighbors to the south, U.S. carriers have pretty much all gone through the certification process by now. Here is a comprehensive list of the airlines that currently allow the uninterrupted use of electronic devices throughout the flight. If you are flying on a smaller carrier, or one that is not listed, it is best to consult with the flight attendant as to whether or not they allow use of electronics during takeoff and landing.

  • U.S. Airways
  • United Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Virgin America
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • GoJet
  • SkyWest
  • Miami Air International
  • Horizon Air
  • ExpressJet
  • Air Wisconsin
  • Executive Jet Management charter service

Meanwhile, European airlines have been slower to get approval, although the list continues to expand. Currently, that list includes the following:

  • British Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • Ryanair
  • Iberia
  • Vueling

For most of us, the ability to use our gadgets at all stages of a flight is a welcome change. It allows us to keep reading our ebooks, listening to music, playing games, and watching movies while we wait for our flights to get underway. But curiously, Canadians don’t seem to be too excited about the change in rules. A recent survey found that 64% of Canadian travelers won’t be turning on their devices during flight, despite the shift in policy. Perhaps the people surveyed just aren’t quite as connected to their gadgets as some of us are.

About the Author: Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor and adventure travel writer who covers extreme sports, mountaineering and active travel. Based out of Austin, TX he writes about his own travels while encouraging others to seek their own opportunities for adventure where ever they go.

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