The Federal Aviation Administration is moving closer to allowing air travelers the use of electronic devices like laptops, smart phones and tablet computers during takeoff and landing.
A special group assigned to the topic has drafted a document that considers lifting the ban on such devices for data, i.e. e-mail, but not talking on the phone. Another recommendation allows for "gate-to-gate" use of electronics -- i.e. from the moment the gate door closes at one airport to the moment it opens at the airplane's destination -- but only if the devices are set to "airplane mode."
The final findings are due in September, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The F.A.A. released a statement on Friday, acknowledging the public's increased interest in having access to such devices during takeoff and landing.
“The F.A.A. recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft, that is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions,” the statement said. “We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps.”
Interestingly, the Federal Communications Commission urged the F.A.A. last December to relax electronics rules, the New York Times reports, noting that the devices "empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness.”
The news should be of particular interest to Alec Baldwin, whose feelings on the ban are well-documented.
In December 2011, the 30 Rock star was removed from an American Airlines flight at Los Angeles International Airport after a flight attendant insisted he turn off his phone on the tarmac.
The 55-year-old actor, who later said he was playing Words with Friends, "was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language," according to an American Airlines statement. "He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed."
"I guess the fact that this woman, who had decided to make some example of me, while everyone else was left undisturbed, did get the better of me," Baldwin later wrote in a Huffington Post column about the incident.