published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

FAA to allow air passengers to use gadgets on planes during all parts of flight

A passenger checks.3 her cell phone before a flight, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Boston. The Federal Aviation Administration issued new guidelines Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, under which passengers will be able to use devices to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music, from the time they board to the time they leave the plane.
A passenger checks.3 her cell phone before a flight, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Boston. The Federal Aviation Administration issued new guidelines Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, under which passengers will be able to use devices to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music, from the time they board to the time they leave the plane.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NEW YORK — Fliers are rejoicing that they'll soon be able to use their iPads, Kindles, music players and other personal electronics during all phases of a flight. But no policy change is without its quirks or hiccups.

For the past decade fliers haven't been able to use electronic devices while planes are below 10,000 feet because they might interfere with cockpit instruments. The Federal Aviation Administration declared Thursday that interference isn't a concern anymore. Hey, pilots now keep key documents on cockpit iPads.

One thing that's not changing: Making phone calls while on a plane will still be prohibited.

Airlines are moving quickly to certify themselves with the FAA. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways both said they could allow electronic use on flights starting Friday. Anyway, here are some things travelers should consider:

PLANE CONFUSION: Delta says its mainline planes could allow devices Friday. Its smaller regional jets might take until the end of the year to certify. That means some connecting passengers will be able to use electronics on their first flight of the day but not on the second.

IGNORE THE VIDEO: It takes airlines days — if not weeks — to update safety videos. Those videos clearly tell passengers to keep their electronics off. There will be an awkward phase where flight attendants will have to make announcements overriding those videos.

SAFETY DEMONSTRATIONS: If passengers are busy reading, playing Angry Birds or listening to music they won't pay attention to the safety demonstration. That might be an issue but, let's face it, most passengers already ignore the talk.

DEVICE SIZE: Laptops and larger electronics must be kept under the seat or in the overhead bin until the plane is above 10,000. It's not interference that the FAA is worried about. These heavy devices could become projectiles during a crash.

TAKEOFF AND LANDING: Kindles, iPads and other tablets must be held tightly or placed in the seatback pocket for the brief amount of time that the plane is rolling down the runway. Again, the worry is projectiles. Flight attendants are strapped into their own seats during these crucial periods of flight, so this rule will have to be self-policed.

AIRPLANE MODE: Cell phones can only be used if they are in airplane mode, meaning they can't transmit cellular data. Again, this will have to be self-policed.

BATTERY LIFE: Airlines are quickly moving to add individual power outlets and USB plugs at every seat. But that amenity is still years away. Until then, travelers are going to have to preserve power as best they can.

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