FAA Finally Loosens Restrictions On In-Flight Electronic Devices

After years of debate over whether or not it was safe to use certain electronic devices during all stages of flight, the FAA has finally decided to relax the restrictions that forced you to stop reading your Kindle or listening to music during takeoff and landing.

The FAA announced this morning that it is immediately providing guidance to the airlines on how to go through the process of demonstrating that their aircraft can safely handle radio interference from portable electronics. Once a carrier has done so, it can allow passengers to use certain devices in airplane mode in most in-flight situations.

However, airplane pilots will still have the authority to tell passengers to turn off these devices in cases like making a landing in reduced visibility. And passengers are still required to abide by the instructions of a flight’s crew members, so if they say “off with your tablet,” that tablet should go off.

Again, these new guidelines do not mean you can use your phone to make calls in mid-flight. Mobile phones will be allowed, but they must be turned to airplane mode, meaning you can’t use them to make calls at any point after you pull back from the gate. This is an FCC regulation that the FAA has no authority to change. If the plane offers in-flight WiFi service, you can turn on your device’s WiFi connection and go online that way.

The FAA is also requiring that all portable electronic devices are held by the passenger or temporarily placed in seat back pockets during takeoff and landing. Laptops are still expected to be stowed with your carry-on bags until after takeoff is complete, as they are still considered a potential safety risk — not because of signal interference, but because of their size. The FAA likens the laptop rule to its reason for requiring that tray tables be put away; they could inhibit exit from seats in case of an emergency.

The FAA provides no hard timeline for how long the implementation will last, but the agency expects that it will take several months for most airlines to complete the non-interference vetting process.

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  1. MrOldtimer says:

    Please,Please.Please, never allow phone call. While they may not be dangerous to the plane’s electronics, there will be problems with passenger confort.

    • LauraNorthrup says:

      Problems with passenger comfort such as passengers getting punched in the face when they try to make phone calls. This comes up on Amtrak. The phone calls, not the punching (that I know of.) Some dude on a conference call, for most of a 2.5 hour ride.

    • Mapache says:

      Do you even get signal at 30000 ft?

    • illusio26 says:

      i agree, the last thing I want to hear is one side of a very loud conversation for 3 hours.

  2. Raekwon says:

    Yeah, phone calls should work. I agree though, we should ban phone calls for reason other than the fake interference excuse that has been used up to now.

  3. fakevegan says:

    A few years ago, an airline pilot told me it wasn’t so much the electronic interference that airlines wanted all devices off during takeoffs and landings, it was to keep passengers from being preoccupied by them because the greater risk of something going wrong. They just wanted passengers to be alert during this time. It was mostly directed to the walkmans, discmans, and iPods.

  4. Scar says:

    I imagine Alec Baldwin sitting somewhere reading this, excited to know he can now play his Words with Friends without getting kicked off the plane.

  5. AMysteriousStranger says:

    Oh good! Now 98% of all passengers will no longer need to feel guilty!

  6. coloradoconsumer says:

    While some people think that the interference argument is a crock. I can say having working in the avionics industry and specifically on the navigation systems that at least before GPS was more reliable, were used to provide information to the pilot, interference is definitely a potentially serious problem.

    Now, I worked in the industry a long time ago, and the navigation systems were likely hardened to the presence of wifi and cellular interference since that time. But it is not crock science. I have sat in the room monitoring a navigation system while it went wildly off track when introducing a relatively small amount of interference.