Ban on Inflight Electronics Below 10,000 Feet Likely to Be Lifted in 2014

Back in June the committee formed to make a recommendation on use of electronics inflight below 10,000 feet asked for more time. Now that committee is expected to deliver its report this week.

They are expected to recommend the restrictions be lifted, which in turn could lead to the FAA removing the requirement to turn off electronic devices for takeoff and landing soemtime in 2014.

This will not mean inflight internet below 10,000 feet. That restriction is not under review. Passengers will be able to fire up their e-readers, have their phones on in airplane model, and watch movies or use their laptops though.

This will not mean inflight use of cell phones. FCC restriction against that will remain in place. People almost universally hate the idea of passengers gabbing away on their cell phones, though the thought of it never much bothered me.

  • Seat back phones were commonplace for years (though sufficiently cost prohibitive that they weren’t widely used).
  • Amtrak manages to offer quiet cars and seating allowing use of phones. Passengers in confined spaces there talk without causing too much of a disruption. Airlines could even charge a premium (waived for elites!) for so-called cell phone-free zones in coach.

Nonetheless, we’re potentially on the cusp of real progress that is meaningful not just for passenger entertainment but economic productivity.

(HT: Drew)

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That will be very good news. Right now, I can’t use my Kindle for the first 10 minutes or so and often for the last 30-40 minutes of the flight.

  2. Agree! How liberating to not have to be instructed like a child at the beginning & end of flight. Just get to your seat, relax, pull out your entertainment. For those of us in window seats working on laptops, it would be sheer joy to not have to bend down mid-flight, struggle to pull the laptop out of the case and arrange it on the seat-back tray, and then have to do the bend-over battle again, all while imprisoned between a stranger and the plane’s wall. NOW we’ll be able to sit down and get our workstation all set-up right away… no wait. The one downside I see to cancelling the “electronic devices off” rule is that now my employer will EXPECT me to work all flight, every flight. No more breaks, no more blaming the plane rules for my lack of productivity. That 20 minutes of freedom at the beginning and the end was akin to a mini-vacation 🙂

  3. I fly a ton and train some. But cell phones are way worse on a plane. Maybe it’s because a plane on the ground is quiet and a train moving is loud? But there is nothing I hate more an a-hole jackass screaming into his phone on a plane 12″ from my face. I guess we don’t know what it’d be like in flight – perhaps better, but I doubt it. The a-hole screaming into his phone would just scream that much louder?

    Also, I’m stuck flying my 75k miles a year mostly in coach, unlike Gary’s gilded travel. So that a-hole is screaming in my face, not a pleasant 3 feet away or in his own lie-flat Singapore air soundproof coffin. And maybe it’s that only a-holes make calls on planes? Whatever, they scream way too loud. I am not deaf and I understand the words coming out of their mouth.

    Anyway, I am overjoyed that cell phone calls are not being considered here. It’s technically irrelevant – it’d be just fine to allow it – but it will save me (and I assume others) from losing it. The rest of it is completely sane – about time. But cell phones can stay off forever as far as I am concerned.

  4. Glad to hear it’s possibly coming soon! Only thing that I kinda disagree on is laptops for movies. That could possibly cause slower emergency exit from the plane, but I’m sure that will be part of their research.

  5. Perhaps this will mean that it will be officially legal (again) to photograph and film takeoffs and landings?

  6. Cell phone in closed places like that sounds terrible. A few weeks ago in Italy, I had one business man screaming on his phone on a train (Business Class) the ENTIRE time from Rome to Milan. Everyone was annoyed and the conductors asked him several times to keep it down… but nothing changed.

    Also, as a NYC, I see people all the time screaming on their phones on busses, subway (above ground)/trains, etc. What’s worse is that they don’t care about everyone knowing their business… like who they slept with last night, why their poodle had diarrhea, etc.

    I can just imagine, if they lift the ban on cell phones, some grandmother screaming over a cell phone for 30+ minutes and annoying the hell out of everyone. I have no idea why people talk so much louder on the phone either… maybe they are subconsciously doing it?

    Airphones were fine because #1 it was expensive … and #2 since it was expensive, one would make calls for only a few minutes.

  7. Glad to see it go. If using electronics on take off and landing was ever dangerous then they wouldn’t allow them on the plan at all.
    They seriously want us to believe that we can’t bring a finger nail file on the plane because terrorists might use it to take down the plane but simply turning on your laptop during approach might bring the entire plane down?
    If it were really dangerous, Game Boy would be the weapon of choice for terrorists around the world.

  8. @Matt but why impose that problem unnecessarily? Forming a committee to spend a very long time looking at a simple question is the epitome of a first world solution 🙂

  9. With a LIMITED ban, or selective ban, there will be NO WAY TO ENFORCE THIS AT ALL.. Either let everything stay on, or keep everything banned..

    How on earth will an FA audit whether or not someones blackberry or iphone is in airplane mode or not… no way, no way at all.

  10. I’d rather have airlines set cell phone policy than the FAA. If there is no danger to using a cell phone on a plane then the FAA should allow and an airline can set its own policy.

  11. I’m not sure this is going to lead to “meaningful economic productivity” but it’s still a nice change.

    The five minutes at the beginning of the flight was never a big deal (we could all use a few minutes of peace and quiet in life) but I always find it frustrating having to shut down early at the end. I had a United crew instruct us to shut down a full hour before touchdown on a flight from Australia once.

  12. One potential excellent use for a cell phone on a plane would be to use its internet connection, which is probably both faster and cheaper than Gogo, (assuming you get a signal.)

    First airline to permit people TALKING on them in the air, however, loses my business permanently.

  13. @peter..while something like that may work randomly, or at take off and landing, getting a proper signal for data and consistent throughput while five miles up on a plane going 450+mph, this just isn’t going to happen. Distance kills, and SPEED kills when we’re talking about connecting to and maintaining signal quality. Even in a car, signal quality drops by up to 90% just when a car travels 55mph..a random text, random call, bit of email coming through is going to certainly be possible, but it won’t replace infight wifi now or most likely ever.

  14. @tivoboy I figured as much, but next thing they’ll be putting cells on the planes. Just wait.

    @Gary – well how the heck are they gonna police THAT? I can do that from the overhead bin!

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