Aviation News

October 31, 2013

FAA to Allow Use of Personal Electronic Devices Below 10,000 Feet


“Ladies and gentleman, we have now closed the main cabin door and we ask that you now power down any electronic devices”

…may soon become a thing of the past!


Earlier this morning, the FAA’s Personal Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PED ARC) announced that they are recommending for the FAA to allow airlines the ability to expand passenger usage of electronic devices below 10,000 feet. And yes, this includes taxi, take-off, and landing! The ban on voice calls and non-airline provided internet connections will still remain in place.


Soon, but not quite yet, you may not need to put your electronics in the nasty seatback pocket while you’re taking off and landing. Photo courtesy Doug Belshaw, Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re flying in the coming days or even weeks, don’t get too excited, yet. While this was a huge (and long anticipated announcement), the FAA predicts that it isn’t going to begin to  take effect until closer to the end of 2013 for US-based airlines. Think of it as the FAA’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gift to us all.

Another caveat to consider is that each airline must apply for and obtain safety approval from the FAA in order for all of us laptop users to work on those urgently needed graphs below 10,000 feet. However, according to the FAA, they are “streamlining the approval of expanded PED [personal electronic device] use by giving airlines updated, clear guidance. These FAA tools will help assess the risks of potential PED-induced avionics problems for their airplanes and specific operations.”

Within hours of the announcement, Delta and JetBlue released statements announcing their immediate plans to file with the FAA for electronic usage from gate to gate. So, if you have upcoming plans to fly with either of them, the holidays might come a little earlier for you this year.

According to Delta, “All…aircraft have completed carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.” While this is true for their mainline aircraft, Delta plans to have their regional jets ready by year’s end.

Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s Chief Commercial Officer stated earlier that “This new policy vastly improves our customers’ experience, and giving everyone a chance to be more connected is good for business.”

John Walton, director of data at flight search and data website Routehappy.com, says…

“Delta co-chaired the FAA committee that made these recommendations, and the airline has been very quick to state its intentions. JetBlue has also been vocal about plans to allow electronics.” “It’ll quickly become very clear to flyers which airlines allow them to be productive or relax in the time between doors closed and takeoff, and between descent and the jetway. Flyers for whom electronic devices are important — often high-value customers for airlines — will start booking accordingly. Who wants to lose an hour of work or stare at a seatback thanks to a needless rule?”

Who knows which of these two airlines will be the first, but when approved, it will be a major selling point over the airlines that are potentially lagging behind.

So now, during taxi, take-off, and landing, smaller items such as your tablet that you used to have to keep in either the seatback pocket or overhead bin may now be held. Larger laptops however might still be required to be kept under the seat in front of you. In the unlikely event of extremely low visibility, the crew might request that devices are powered down temporarily.

Update, 11/1/13 5:30 pm EDT: As of late this afternoon, JetBlue and Delta have both received formal approval from the FAA to allow gate-to-gate use of personal electronics. Both airlines are allowing their use effective immediately. As always listen to and comply with all instructions from onboard crewmembers.

For more information, check out the FAA’s page on PEDs.


About the Author

Stephen Weisbrot



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