FAA Lifts Restrictions On Portable Electronic Devices
October 31, 2013

FAA: Your Electronic Devices Get Gate-to-Gate Approval

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has relaxed a number of its restrictions on portable electronic devices before and during air travel. Pending individual airline approval, passengers on airplanes can now use tablets, e-readers and other electronic devices during takeoff and landing as well as while in the air.

The FAA's administrator, Michael Huerta, advised airlines that it is safe to expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. The restrictions are immediately lifted, however, some airlines will take time to change their policy to match the new guidelines.

Just hours after the FAA announcement, JetBlue and Delta attempted to become the first US carriers to offer expanded use of personal electronic devices on flights, according the DallasNews aviation blog. Delta said it expects to offer takeoff to landing access for personal electronic devices as soon as Friday. JetBlue submitted its application just 20 minutes after Delta, yet is determined to be the first US airline to open up restrictions. However, the FAA may hold both parties back.

Twitter ignited with speculation that applications have been put on hold. @Jaunted tweeted, "Nevermind. FAA is dragging its feet on the gate-to-gate gadget approvals Perhaps tomorrow for @JetBlue, @Delta, et al."

Though some say JetBlue jumped the gun in trying to get approval, @RunwayGirl tweeted "FAA has granted verbal approval to JetBlue, allowing carrier to permit passengers to use PEDs gate-to-gate. Carrier now alerting crew #PaxEx."

A handful of restrictions still apply to portable electronic devices. The use of cellular services, such as voice calls and data remains prohibited. Wi-Fi and other wireless connectivity is allowed based on the individual airline's provisions. However Wi-Fi is prohibited at altitudes of less than 10,000 feet, USA Today reports.

Cell phones remain on the prohibited list. The FAA advises that cell phones must remain in airplane mode, with cellular services disabled.

While the FAA allows passengers to use portable electronic devices throughout the duration of the flight, the agency advises that electronic items, books and magazines must be placed in the seat back pocket or held during the actual takeoff and landing roll.

"We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer's increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing the airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future."

It is up to individual airlines to change their policies, which may not happen immediately. Airlines have had time to consider their policies. The FAA said it was exploring the possibility of revising its regulations on portable electronic devices in March of last year. In June, British Airways became the first airline to allow portable electronic devices to be used throughout flights in the UK.

"I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs on airplanes," said FAA's Huerta.

The FAA consulted several parties including flight attendants when reviewing the guidelines on portable electronic devices. Flight attendants are the most visible party, and are often required to police the policy. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants applauded the decision as a benefit for passengers and crew members.

"Flight attendants' top priority is passenger safety, but we're always looking to improve the air travel experience. Once the new policy is safely implemented - and we're going to work closely with the carrier to do that - it will be a win-win. We're frankly tired of feeling like 'hall monitors' when it comes to this issue," said Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

Before pulling out an electronic device under 10,000 feet, check with your airline to ensure it is allowed. While restrictions are now up to individual airlines, the FAA has posted a number of pages addressing the use of portable electronics devices in the air. These pages include an infographic, a list of frequently asked questions, and a fact sheet on the portable electronic devices aviation rulemaking committee report.