The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - part of the the US Department of Transportation - has told airlines they can allow passengers to use portable electronic devices during flights.
Individual airlines can choose how to implement the rules but it’s expected than many will allow devices to be used ‘gate to gate’ by the end of this year. Each airline needs to complete a safety assessment and obtain FAA approval before changing its policy for electronic devices.
However, there’ll still be some safety restrictions. Smartphones and other devices with a SIM card will need to be put in ‘airplane’ mode with cellular service disabled. In addition, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations will continue to prohibit making or receiving any voice calls. Finally, all equipment will need to be held or put in the seat pocket during take-off and landing procedures - and may need to be switched off if visibility is poor.
The FAA decision follows advice from a group of experts including airline representatives, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants and the mobile technology industry.
Anthony Foxx, US Transportation Secretary, said “We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights. These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”
These new rules only affect flights in airspace controlled by the USA. A decision on the use of electronic devices on flights across the UK and Europe is expected in the next few months.
[Fact Sheet: Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee Report (pdf)]