New airplane mode: Personal device use OK during all flight phases, says FAA

After reviewing recent studies and recommendations, the Federal Aviation Association says the airline industry can allow passengers to use portable electronic devices (PEDs) in all flight phases.

The agency statement was published on Thursday with a timeline of “before year end” for carriers to prove safety for such use so airlines can rework their policies on PEDs. New rules could vary by airline, however, so passengers will still have to tune in for specific procedures.

With so many types of mobile devices these days, it could appear tricky as to what qualifies under any new rules but the FAA statement did a good job in explaining:

“Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones.

If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services.  You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.”

It will still be difficult, if not impossible, for flight attendants to truly enforce any new rules, however. A device may have its radios on during takeoff and nobody would be the wiser. Still, this is a win for consumers as it allows more freedom to use devices for a few minutes longer during takeoff and after landing.