FAA has just announced that it will allow airlines to expand the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) like iPhones and iPads during all phases of the flight, with very limited exceptions.
From FAA’s press release:
Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
It’s important to note that some devices like the iPhone would still have to be kept in airplane mode, however you will be able to use in-flight Wi-Fi services offered by the air carrier. You will also be able to use Bluetooth accessories. You may also be told to turn off the devices in rare instances of low-visibility during landing.
Last month an advisory committee had recommended to expand the use of personal electronic devices during nearly all phases of the flight.
FAA will provide airlines with guidelines to access if their airplanes can tolerate radio interference from PEDs. After their airplanes are certified, airlines can allow passengers to use PEDs. The implementation of the new regulations will vary among airlines, but FAA expects airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.
If you’re wondering what exactly has changed with the new regulations as you have used electronic devices with the exception of during takeoff and landing, then I think the difference is that you don’t have to turn off your device. You were also allowed to use the device only above 10,000 feet. With the new regulations those restrictions have been removed, though you will need to put your cellular device in airplane mode, and the device needs to be held or put in the seat back pocket during actual takeoff and landing.
It remains to be seen how the airlines will implement this, but I hope we don’t have to wait for someone to tell us it is safe to turn on our device.