FAA Electronic Device Limit on Flights Easing, but Still No Cellphones

Thursday, 31 Oct 2013 01:45 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Airline passengers who can't seem to do without their electronic devices can rejoice as the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday it is easing its restrictions on most devices – but not cellphones.

The changes will likely take effect before year's end, according to the New York Times, but the FAA will still restrict cellphone calls, which will probably make passengers sitting next to those with cellphones happy.

"In some instances of low visibility, one percent of flights, some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference," FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta told the New York Times and other reporters during a briefing at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. "In those cases, passengers may be asked to turn off personal electronic devices."

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Huerta told reporters that with rare exceptions, airlines will now allow the use of electronic tablets, MP3 players and smartphones in "airplane mode," with their cell network connections turned off. He said the airlines will conduct tests on their equipment for final FAA approval.

The Washington Post reported that the FAA will still require electronic gadgets to be held or put away during takeoff and landing.

"We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation told the Post in a statement. "These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the revised federal guidelines for electronic devices will be a benefit for air customers, especially business travelers.

"This is great news for the traveling public – and frankly, a win for common sense," McCaskill, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's subcommittee on consumer protection, told the Post. "I applaud the FAA for taking the necessary steps to change these outdated regulations, and I look forward to the airlines turning around quick plans for implementation."

Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told USA Today the rule changes will benefit the flight crew as well.

"Once the new policy is safely implemented – and we're going to work closely with the carrier to do that – it will be a win-win," Gladingtold USA Today. "We're frankly tired of feeling like 'hall monitors' when it comes to this issue."

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Related stories:

FAA Panel Says Some Gadgets Should be Allowed on Flights

Hurricane Sandy Cancels More Than 9,400 Flights

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