Coming Soon: Gadgets Gate-to-Gate

It’s a big day for American travelers. If you’ve been on a plane this decade, you know the drill: Passengers must stow all electronic devices for taxi, takeoff, and landing. Today the FAA is making some exciting announcements to make that routine a thing of the past.

This morning, after nine months of study and review, the Federal Aviation Administration outlined plans to relax some longstanding rules about when airline passengers can use portable electronic devices like tablets, eReaders, and smartphones during various phases of flight – as long as they stay in “airplane mode.”

You can read the details on the FAA’s website, but here’s the bottom line: the FAA has given airlines the guidance they need to let passengers use certain devices during all phases of flight, and they are going to work closely with them to make these changes safely and speedily. Those changes don’t take effect today, but consumer demand is high, and we expect many airlines will complete this process by year’s end – just in time to use that new gadget you’re hoping to get for the holidays.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean the person next to you will be chatting away on their phone from departure until arrival: the FAA didn’t take on the issue of voice calls in-flight, so those rules still apply. It also doesn’t apply to larger and heavier devices which, for everyone’s safety, still need to be stowed during takeoff and landing. Finally, there are some limited circumstances, mostly under low visibility, where the flight crew will need to ask passengers to power their devices off during landing and, as always, it’s essential to follow crew instructions at all times. More questions? The FAA has prepared a helpful FAQ.

Those recommendations represented a lot of hard work from the FAA, a number of industry stakeholders, and consumer advocates, and we echo Transportation Secretary Foxx’s thanks for their efforts. 

Now there’s no excuse for not finishing that novel, watching that film, or falling behind on your inbox.

You’re welcome, Toby Ziegler.

Gene Sperling is the Director of the National Economic Council
Related Topics: Technology, Additional Issues