Friday, November 1, 2013

Travelers Rejoice!

No longer will air travelers have to endure the agonizing first and last 15-20 minutes of a flight when all electronic devices have to be turned off and put away. On Thursday, October 31, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration made a long-anticipated announcement that fliers will soon be able to use their portable electronic devices (PEDs) from gate to gate. 

After months of study with a group of aviation experts, the FAA has concluded that most commercial aircraft can tolerate radio interference signals from passengers' electronic devices, leaving the planes' essential systems, especially communications and navigation, fully functional. Currently, passengers are required to turn off all electronic devices anytime the plane is under 10,000 feet.

How soon will you be able to enjoy the relaxed rules? It depends on the airline as carriers must now file plans with the FAA to allow the use of electronic devices throughout the flight and prove that their vessels are PED-tolerant. The FAA anticipates many carriers will receive approval by the end of the year. Both Delta and JetBlue submitted plans to implement the relaxed restrictions immediately following the Thursday-morning announcement.

Some restrictions apply:
-Devices still have to be in airplane mode, suspending all devices transmitting functions and disabling cellular network, wireless internet network and data network connections.
-In instances of extremely poor weather and low-visibility, you may still have to turn off your devices.

While travelers and the electronics industry and rejoicing, some concerns remain. The Association of Flight Attendants is asking for streamlined testing to ensure airplanes can safely tolerate the interference as well as development of crew training and passenger messaging to ensure travelers pay attention to safety messages. Attendants will now have to ensure passengers are actually switching to airplane mode as directed, presenting another logistical concern. The Air Line Pilots Association is concerned that replaying on passengers to adhere to with the airplane mode requirement and comply with requests to turn off PEDs during poor weather are not practical solutions.

According to a 2013 study by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Airline Passenger Experience Association, almost one-third of passengers admitted to leaving at least one PED on during a recent flight.


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