Right after I posted about rumors the FAA was moving closer to relaxing the regulations for electronics on planes, I was contacted by Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press. I don’t think the two were related, but Scott asked me my opinion on the forecasted changes.
I took a moment to think about it some more, especially since I wrote the first post in the middle of the night after a long day of work travel to the West coast. Scott published a few of my thoughts in his article along with some other good information about the upcoming (I hope) changes. Scott touched on something I mentioned earlier about how the whole process of approving electronics has been screwed up from the beginning:
Technically, the FAA doesn’t bar use of electronic devices when aircraft are below 10,000 feet. But under FAA rules, airlines that want to let passengers use the devices are faced with a practical impossibility — they would have to show that they’ve tested every type and make of device passengers would use to ensure there is no electromagnetic interference with aircraft radios and electrical and electronic systems.
In an era of epic financial losses and bankruptcies for the airlines, who would have expected they would ever spend the money on something like this? Instead of waiting for the airlines to take action the FAA diligently stepped in about 5 years too late to try and move things along. And then proceeded to extend their own deadline another couple of months.
I really do think the flight attendants get a bad rap for having to enforce these rules:
Edward Pizzarello, the co-founder of frequent flier discussion site MilePoint, says lifting the restriction is “long overdue.”
“I actually feel like this regulation has been toughest on flight attendants. Nobody wants to shut off their phone, and the flight attendants are always left to be the bad guys and gals,” said Pizzarello, 38, of Leesburg, Va.
And, I certainly hope they don’t allow people to start making cell phone calls on airplanes, though I sincerely doubt that’s coming anytime soon.
“I just hope they do the sensible thing and don’t allow people to talk on their cellphones during flight,” said Pizzarello, who flies 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year. “There are plenty of people that don’t have the social skills necessary to make a phone call on a plane without annoying the people around them. Some things are better left alone.”
The other area where I think a change like this has a big impact is on family travel. My wife and I don’t let our kids watch a lot of TV, but iPads are a part of their lives for a reasonable amount of games, mostly educational learning. On an airplane, where child meltdowns are amplified, telling a young child that’s being quiet and well behaved that they need to shut down their iPad for 20 minutes is not the most successful strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, our kids can do without their devices for 20 minutes. But, one of my eternal rules of parenting is not to disturb a child who is entertaining themselves peacefully unless there’s blood, profanity, nudity or laziness. If they’re playing a game quietly during take-off, I’m perfectly content to see that continue.
Ultimately I think things will still sort themselves out on this issue by the end of the year. And, it’ll be a bit better for most travelers.