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FAA may loosen rules on electronics use

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

FAA may loosen rules on electronics use

Anybody who travels frequently knows that there are often strict rules in place for how, and when, you can use electronics during the course of a flight. Although many forms of communication are expected to be still be banned - making phone calls, sending emails and using personal Wi-Fi - there will be no take-off and landing restrictions if new rules proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration go into effect next year, The New York Times reported.

Mounting pressure
The potential for a policy change comes as the FAA continues to hear complaints from increasingly connected travelers. Furthermore, critics have suggested there is no substantial evidence that the use of electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and smartphones interfere with cockpit controls. Up until know, the findings have been almost entirely anecdotal. Industry insiders also point to a study published by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association that found about one-third of passengers forget to turn off their devices. 

"Every time I fly, when landing or right before we touch down, I hear pings, and bings and chirps, because people never turn off their phones in the first place," Capt. Sean P. Cassidy, an Alaska Airlines pilot, told the Times. "Rather than stick our head in the sand and expect people will modify their behavior, the FAA is approaching this very methodically and purposefully."

A surprising impact
Although letting business and leisure travelers use their devices during certain small windows may seem like it will have little effect, a study from DePaul University suggests that fliers will make considerable use of the looser rules. Researchers there found that the FAA's ban on using electronics during takeoffs and landings resulted in fliers cutting back their use by approximately 105 million hours. In fact, the amount of disrupted technological activity grew by about 104 percent between 2010 and 2013.

The proposed new rules could also have a significant impact on business travelers. For instance, before they land and check into their serviced apartments, business travelers can more easily compose their plans for their stay, read any documents they might need to be familiar with or listen to a podcast that can help them get in the right frame of mind.