New FAA Rules Let Airline Passengers Keep Electronic Device Turned On

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-10-31 Print this article Print

The pilots knew that they could turn off their devices instantly if they detected interference. Turning off a planeload of iPads might be difficult and it wouldn't happen instantly.

Other things have happened as well. Modern airliners aren't as sensitive to interference as older designs were because their avionics have been designed to reject interference. In addition, modern electronic devices generate much less radio frequency interference than they once did.

The next step is that airlines will begin to certify that their airplanes can handle interference. This will require testing and that can take some time. However, airlines that are already allowing WiFi have probably already performed the necessary testing and could allow operations of personal electronic devices sooner. In addition, airlines don't need to wait until all of their airliners have been tested; they can allow the use of personal electronic devices sooner on some planes and later on others.

When devices are permitted to remain on from take off to landing on airliners, you can expect to be told to switch your device into airplane mode during those times. You may not use WiFi then and you can never use cellular connections. You will be allowed to keep holding your tablet, or you will be allowed to put it into the seat-back pocket. However you will still not be allowed to hold your laptop, which will still be required to be in the overhead luggage compartment.

Nor will you be allowed to make phone calls. You will only be allowed to send and receive SMS text messages if it can be done over WiFi, and currently only T-Mobile can do that. The FAA has some tips for passengers and some FAQs on the rules which you might find helpful.

The bad news, at least for some, is that Alec Baldwin still won't be allowed to play "Words with Friends" during take-off, an activity that got the actor tossed off an American Airlines flight last year.

The good news is that your boss won't be able to call you in flight on your cell phone. The other bad news is that you won't be able to get away from office email, at least if your flight has WiFi. But the best news is that you won't have to stop reading that novel when the plane takes off.


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