The days of hearing "Please turn off all your electronic devices" on the loudspeaker before airlines' take offs and landings are coming to an end.
After hearing and assessing a report from the Aviation Rulemaking Committee, today the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will be loosening the restrictions on gadget usage on planes, announcing that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.
"Most planes can handle radio interference," Michael Huerta, the administrator of the FAA, said at a press conference this morning. "It is safe to read e-books and play games. One percent of flights might not be able to tolerate the interference. In those cases passengers will be asked to turn off their devices."
That means that e-readers, phones, tablets and MP3 players won't have to be powered off during the takeoff and landing periods. However, there are still some restrictions. All the devices must be put in airplane mode during those periods and some larger devices, like laptops, may still have to be stowed in a seat pocket during takeoff and landing.
Additionally, you cannot talk on your phone at any point during the flight, Huerta stressed. "I want to be clear you still cannot talk on the phone during the flight. The committee did not consider that," he said. Once in the air, passengers can connect to the plane's in-flight WiFi network and they can also use Bluetooth devices.
There will still be one point, however, where all passengers have to put down their devices: during the safety video or when flight attendants provide the pre-flight safety information. "Passengers must take a break and listen to the safety briefing before each flight," Huerta said.
So when will you be able to listen to your music or read an e-book while the flight takes off? Fairly soon, it seems. Airlines will now have to revise policies and work with the FAA, but it shouldn't be too long of a wait. Delta has already submitted its plan and says it might be ready to allow use as early as tomorrow, Nov. 1. The airline says its aircrafts have already completed the carrier-defined PED tolerance testing.
"These changes won't take effect immediately, but we will be working with the airlines to get it done as quickly as we can," Huerta said. "I expect expanded use to happen very soon."