By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Air travelers toting iPads and e-readers can rejoice: the FAA is ending its long policy forcing passengers to switch off and stow those devices during takeoff and landing.
“Airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says.
In one of the most sweeping changes for air travelers since smoking was banned in-flight, you won’t be able to make calls or send text messages, but most everything else — including tablets, smartphones, e-readers, small laptops, DVD players — is fair game.
Huerta says experts have figured out most airliners can handle the limited electromagnetic interference that comes from things like playing touchscreen games or reading e-books.
“In some instances of low visibility — about one percent of all flights, some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference,” Huerta says.
In those cases, the crew will tell passengers to revert to the old way of doing things and power the devices down. But the rest of the time, from boarding to rolling into the arrival gate, you’ll be allowed to use a device with little restriction.
“Now, these changes won’t take effect immediately,” Huerta says. “But we’ll be working with the airlines to get it done as quickly as we can and to maximize consistency across the industry.”
There is room for confusion, with the FAA still requiring what it considers a “heavier” device — like a laptop three pounds or over — to stay stowed for takeoff and landing.
And, as on every flight, Huerta says, the crew is king:
“Passengers must take a break from their devices, reading material, music — whatever they’re doing — and listen to the safety briefing before each flight,” Huerta says. “It’s information that could save your life. If the captain asks you to shut off a device, it’s for a good reason.”
Delta Airlines says if it gets FAA approval, it could implement the new rules on personal electronic devices as early as Friday.