TechCrunch broke the news: The FAA has posted a press release announcing that airlines can now allow the use of personal electronic devices (which they refer to using the acronym PEDs) throughout the flight, from gate to gate. They’re providing the airlines with a set of guidelines, and we can expect to see them put into action by the end of the year. How these changes will be put in place will vary from airline to airline, but the general idea is that you won’t have to put away your mobile device during takeoff and landing. The new guidelines should be in effect by the end of the year.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the FAA guidelines…
- Lighter handheld electronic devices, which includes smartphones and tablets, must either be held or placed in the seat back pocket in front of you during takeoff and landing.
- Heavier electronic devices, such as full-size laptop computers, will have to be stowed during takeoff and landing. It will likely be up to each airline to declare what sorts of devices are considered “heavier”. Would a MacBook Air be considered light enough to use throughout a flight?
- Cellular service must be disabled — that is, no signal bars displayed — and can’t be used for voice communications; this is based on FCC regulations that disallow airborne calls using mobile phones.
- The use of wifi is allowed if the plane offers in-flight wifi service.
- Short-range Bluetooth devices, such as wireless keyboards, are allowed.
- In rare cases where visibility is very poor and the pilots have to do an instrument landing, you may still be asked to shut off electronic devices. This is because some landing systems may not be tolerant of the electromagnetic interference from personal devices.
- You’re still expected to put down your device or other reading material during the safety briefing at the start of the flight.
- You’re still expected to turn off and put away your device if a member of the crew asks you to.
Each airline will implement them only after they’ve performed a safety assessment and have received FAA approval, but I suspect that everyone will try to fast-track the process, especially with the holiday season coming up. Delta have already posted an announcement saying that they’ve submitted a plan and you might be able to use electronic devices for the duration of the flight starting November 1. That’s tomorrow at the time of this writing.
I’ve got at least four flights scheduled this coming month, and I’m hoping they get these new guidelines into effect ASAP!