There's some good news today for airline passengers that just can't stand to shut down and stow their electronics during takeoff and landing. The Federal Aviation Administration has announced that airlines can now allow passengers to use electronic devices for things like reading e-books, playing games and watching videos during all phases of flight "with very limited exceptions." Devices must be held or put in a seat back pocket during the plane's actual takeoff and landing roll, and the FAA says that cell phones may not have an active cellular connection. However, passengers are allowed to use Wi-Fi and short-range Bluetooth accessories.
The FAA says that it's streamlining its approval of electronics use during flight and providing each airline with clear guidance. The agency notes that rules on the use of personal electronic devices will vary from airline to airline due to differences in planes and operations, but it expects that passengers will be able to use their gadgets in airplane mode from gate-to-gate by the end of 2013.
We've been hearing rumblings about expanded electronics use on flights for some time now, and last month an FAA advisory panel gave the recommendation that the restrictions on in-flight electronics use should be relaxed. These new rules look like a big step forward for in-flight electronics use, and while I'm sure that some folks will be disappointed to learn that they still can't conduct voice calls and send text messages over a cellular connection during takeoff and landing, many others will be pleased to be able to read their e-books or watch videos uninterrupted. Best of all is that the FAA expects the new rules to go into effect at many airlines by the end of this year, which could help to make those upcoming holiday flights a bit more bearable.