Portable electronics on planes

Airplane mode will still be required, and you'll have to pretend to pay attention to the safety briefing

The Federal Aviation Administration this morning at a news conference announced that (as expected) it has determined that portable electronic devices can be used not just above 10,000 feet, but during "all phases of flight." That means no more turning off your iPhones, iPads, e-books, e-readers, Game Boys, Kindles, BlackBerry, blueberry, strawberry — anything with an on/off switch that must be in the off position before the aircraft can push back from the gate.

You will, however, have to wait on the airlines to implement the FAA's guidance, which it expects to see happen by the end of the year.

Here are the broad strokes:

  • You won't actually have to turn off your electronic devices — not that everyone does so anyway — but you will still be expected to put them into airplane mode. And the FAA rightfully noted in today's news conference that there's no sense having your phone constantly check for a cell signal at 35,000 feet anyway — it'll just drain your battery.
  • You'll still be expected to not use your devices during the safety briefing.
  • Laptop computers will still have to be stowed for takeoff and landing.
  • You'll be expected to hold your phone or tablet, or stash it in a seat-back pocket during takeoff and landing.
  • You'll be able to use Bluetooth devices.
  • Phone calls are still not allowed.
  • Some flights — about 1 percent, the FAA estimated — will need to disallow portable electronic devices, usually in instances of low visibility. 

So, you'll eventually be able to read books and listen to music or play games or whatever while you're in the hour-long conga line at LGA — just not quite yet. That said, Delta today announced that it's ready for the change as soon as this week.

Regardless, it's a good day for passengers — and a bad day for the folks who have to edit those airline safety videos.

Source: FAA