Gear and Gizmos News
Just when you thought it was safe to use your favorite electronic devices during takeoff and landing, you just might lose that right once again. Flight attendants in the United States have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration that could potentially force the U.S. government to reinstate its ban on the use of smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets in the early, and late, stages of a flight. If the ban is indeed reinstated, it could have ramifications for other airlines around the world as well. On October 10, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA went to court to sue the FAA in an effort to have the agency rescind the order that allowed the use of electronic devices at all stages of a flight. The ban for using those devices was lifted just last fall, but representatives for the flight attendants argued that it violated federal regulations that require passengers to stow all of their belongings during takeoff and landing.
The FAA says that giving passengers the right to keep their electronic gadgets in their hands at all times doesn’t violate the rules governing the stowage of travel items however, because those small devices were never covered by those rules in the first place. FAA lawyers argued in court that the agencies guidance to the airlines for allowing the use of electronic devices stated that large items, such as laptops, must continue to be stowed, while smaller devices, like smartphones and tablets, could remain in passengers hands at all times. The court filing also indicated that not every single item taken onto an aircraft falls under the category of an “article of baggage,” which is what the regulations regarding stowage are meat to cover.
The initial reason for keeping devices turned off, and stowed, during takeoff and landing was due to safety concerns over how smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets could interfere with an aircraft’s onboard radio system. For years there were concerns that those devices could hinder communication with the air traffic control during crucial stages of a flight. When research found that there was no evidence support those fears, the FAA quickly moved to rescind the ban in October of 2013.
The lawsuit was initially filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals last December, but it took until early October for the arguments to actually be heard. Three judges presided over the hearing, and both the flight attendants and the FAA are now awaiting their ruling. If they decide in favor of the union, passengers flying domestically in the U.S., and on inbound and outbound international flights, would have to revert back to the days when the use of electronic devices was prohibited during takeoff and landing. For frequent fliers, that would feel like a dramatic step back indeed.