FAA Makes It Official, To Allow Electronic Devices Below 10,000 Feet

The FAA made official today what many folks assumed was a foregone conclusion, that you’ll be allowed to use your Kindle or iPad for pretty much the entire flight, though not the cellular functions.

It’s interesting that multiple writeups I’ve reviewed all say things like the FAA won’t allow passengers to use cellular phones to make phone calls but aren’t specific about whether you’ll be allowed to use cellular data on a device like an iPad while you’re taxiing.  I suspect the answer will be no but I can’t find anything definitive.

Back in June I wrote that I was pretty sure all the rumors were correct and that the FAA position would largely be one of allowing use of electronics in practically all phases of flights.  At that point I also said the FAA would do their darndest to slow down the decision making process.  And, they seem to have done a good job giving the can one or two more kicks before succumbing to what seemed like an eventuality.

The announcement today kills the idea for another post I had, that Southwest allows the use of noise-cancelling headphones below 10,000 feet even though their legacy counterparts like United don’t.  It’s a rule I don’t see regularly enforced, but I did think it was curious that Southwest had a different policy here.

There are already reports out that Delta has completed all the testing the FAA requires for their 5-step certification process.  Initially I was surprised when I read this.  But, Delta has done a wonderful job equipping all their planes with wifi earlier than their competitors and also has been competitive (if not an outright leader) when it comes to in-flight entertainment.  Technology is something they do well, unlike their loyalty program.  So, it doesn’t surprise me terribly that they would be the first to get this accomplished.  It also means someone probably leaked the requirements to them or the FAA was open with airlines about the requirements during the process.

All in all, a good day, though likely will be a confusing few months for Joe Traveler.  Some airlines will allow it, others will not.  And there will assuredly be flight crews who aren’t aware of the new rules or just don’t care to acknowledge them.  That will surely cause more stress in an already stressful time of full flights, cranky fliers and even crankier flight crews (yup, looking at you, United).  But, things should get better on this point soon.



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