After months of speculation and weeks of hinting that a change was coming, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced yesterday that it would lift the ban on the use of electronics during takeoff and landing on all commercial flights. That means that we will soon be free to use our ebook readers, tablets and smartphones during “all phases of flight.”
The FAA’s announcement is a dramatic change in policy that many passengers have felt was long over due. Those using their gadgets will still have to set them to “Airplane Mode,” which turns off their internal WiFi and cellular radios, during the takeoff and landing portions of the flight. But they will now be able to use their devices to read books, watch movies, listen to music and play games from gate to gate. It should be noted that despite the fact that we can now use our cellphones during takeoff and landing, making a call is still prohibited for the entire duration of the flight.
The ban on the use of electronic devices is expected to be lifted before the end of the year, but before that can officially happen the FAA will need to coordinate with the airlines. Administration officials say that planes will need to be tested and guidelines will still need to be put in place before we are allowed to play Angry Birds while taxiing down the runway. Those last few logistical hurdles aren’t expected to take long but the FAA announcement cautions that there could still be some rare exceptions during which passengers will still be asked to turn off their devices.
As someone who rarely gets on a plane without some kind of electronic device in my carry-on, this is definitely welcome news. The FAA has been teasing a lifting of this ban for some time and its great to see them follow through. To my knowledge, there has never been a single incident during a flight that has been attributed to the use of an electronic device by a passenger and it is nice to see common sense prevail, even if it took awhile.
It is also important to note that the FAA’s ruling only affects airlines operating within the U.S. Other countries may still continue to enforce the ban. When traveling internationally in the months ahead, be sure to listen to the direction of the flight crew when using your device