Report: FAA to Relax Low Altitude Ban on iPads

Although nothing is official yet, the Wall Street Journal reports that the FAA is poised to relax its ban on using iPads, tablets and other electronic devices during take-offs and landings, and many are cheering – but not everyone.

Listen as Rick Seaney – a tablet aficionado – offers iPad insight:

How to Get an iPad Through Security

What Would Change

If, as expected, the change goes into effect (and a decision is due in September), passengers would no longer be ordered to turn off all electronic devices as a safety precaution during low altitude flying – in other words, during take-offs and landings when planes are below 10,000 feet. According to one study, that works out to about 20 minutes for an average flight and possibly as much as a couple of hours a day for trips with multiple legs and tarmac delays.

Passengers say, “Oops, I forgot”

Passengers Already Flouting Rules

It has been suggested that one reason the FAA is inclined to change its rule is because so many travelers are already disobeying it – either deliberately or through sheer forgetfulness. A recent study showed about a third of all flyers admit they’ve left electronic devices on, non-stop.

Sometimes, if caught by a flight attendant, it doesn’t end well – as actor Alec Baldwin found out the hard way. But many are not caught. That plus the fact that many pilots are already using iPads in cockpits raises questions of inconsistency.

Workaholics and Surfers

So who wants to use electronic devices non-stop? Passengers seem to fall under two categories, those looking for entertainment and those who want to work (or perhaps have to work).

Air travel used to be a blissful respite from the office. Older flyers will remember the concept of travel days where little was expected of an employee beyond reaching his or her destination. Not anymore. As air travel analyst Rick Seaney pointed out not long ago, “Most of us don’t even take all the vacation we’re entitled to; something like 60% of us leave days-off on the table.” If the FAA acts as expected, there will be even more opportunities for over-time.

Forget Phone Calls – For Now

Don’t reach for that cell phone to make a call, though. The FAA currently has no plans to change the no-call prohibition, at the moment, anyway. But that too could change – especially since a number of European carriers including Virgin Atlantic have OK’ed calls-in-flight.

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Published: June 24, 2013