FAA eases rules on in-flight use of personal electronics

4 Nov 2013 by Clement Huang

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices (PED) during all phases of flight, and has begun to provide airlines with the required implementation guidelines.

Following the FAA’s announcement, US carriers Delta and Jet Blue have sought approval to implement the policy. Jet Blue has since become the first airline to offer gate-to-gate PED use.

"Jet Blue now allows all customers gate-to-gate use of personal electronic devices, which means customers can now use their devices at any time during their time onboard," said Robin Hayes, Jet Blue chief commercial officer.

Despite Jet Blue’s rapid integration of the service, the FAA has stressed that implementation will vary among airlines due to the differences among fleets and operations. However, the agency believes that many carriers will adopt the policy by the end of the year.

There are some limitations to the service. While passengers are allowed to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, electronic items do have to be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll.

In addition, mobile phones should always be in airplane mode where the cellular service is disabled. However, if the air carrier offers wifi during flight, passengers are able to enjoy the service gate-to-gate. Bluetooth accessories such as wireless keyboards may also be used.

Here in Asia, no carrier has implemented the service yet, with many preferring to remain cautious for the time being, while others answer to different regulatory bodies. In a response to an enquiry by Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, Cathay Pacific stated: “We are aware of the FAA announcement and will be monitoring and studying the developments.”

Singapore Airlines also had this to say: "We are under the regulatory oversight of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), which does not currently permit this. If CAAS permits it, we will consider it." 

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has reiterated this by pointing out that individual national regulators would need to make their own evaluations and decide if and when to modify their own requirements. "Passengers want a consistent flying experience, but given the number of individual regulators involved worldwide it will take some time to implement the necessary changes," stated Andrew Herdman, director general of the AAPA.

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Clement Huang

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