FAA eases electronic restrictions

Airline travelers will soon be able to check their emails, watch videos and play games with their electronic devices throughout their flights, the Federal Aviation Administration said today in a long-anticipated announcement.

However, the ban on making calls with cell phones during flights will remain in effect.

The FAA, following months of study by a group of aviation experts, said that airlines can now allow passengers to use portable electronic devices such as tablets, laptop computers, e-readers and cell phones in airplane mode throughout the flight – with some circumstantial restrictions.

The timing of the changes will depend on individual airlines, but an FAA statement said it expects “many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.”

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.

“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”

“I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs (portable electronic devices) on airplanes,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

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