Count me amongst the crowd of people who don’t like turning off their electronics when it’s time to close the airplane door. I rarely shut off my phone, hence the reason I love wifi so much. But, I’ve come to appreciate that time between pushback and 10,000 feet and use it to read a newspaper or magazine.
You can also count me in the camp of people who definitely don’t want people to be able to talk on their cellphone while in the air.
Considering both of those opinions, the recent blog post from Nick Bilton of the New York Times is good news to me. He indicates that sources have told him the FAA will rule later this year or early next year that it’s okay to leave those iPads and Kindles on during take-off and landing as long as you leave them in airplane mode. The rumors are this will not include cell phones, which is fine with me.
The real problem I see here, which the article touches on, is putting the flight attendants in the position of having to enforce this correctly. It’s already troublesome for them to do so with the current rules. Sure, there’s a bit of hypocrisy in allowing pilots to use an iPad in the cockpit and not allowing a passenger to do the same in row 8. But, there’s a new dynamic now if they move forward with allowing airplane mode.
For example, how is a flight attendant supposed to see the screen of the iPad in the hands of the guy in the window seat on a 737 to see if there’s a wifi icon or it’s in airplane mode? Now, any device is off-limits, so detection is much easier for flight attendants. And, what does an attendant say to someone who wants to use their iPhone just to work in airplane mode? Will that be allowed?
Lots of hurdles here to get this right. Unfortunately, I think too often government tries to answer all these questions at once, shooting for the perfect solution which takes too long to implement.
I can’t say I have all the right answers here, but it seems like we should be able to make progress on this in the next few months as opposed to waiting until the end of the year.