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FAA Advisory Panel Agrees It’s Time to Loosen Mobile Device Restrictions

by Brandon Russell | September 27, 2013September 27, 2013 11:30 pm PDT


A special administration panel this week recommended to the FAA that restrictions be loosened over mobile device use during takeoff and landing. The decision wraps up discussions that began over a year ago, which will allow passengers to use “most devices” below an altitude of 10,000 feet; some devices—smartphones, for example—will still need to be switched on to Airplane Mode due to potential interference issues.

There’s been a lot of controversy over the issue of mobile electronic use on airplanes over the last few years in particular, with many consumers befuddled as to why they’re prohibited in the first place; it seems the FAA doesn’t even know why the policy is still in place—current guidelines are based on regulations set back in 1966, so it’s definitely time for a change. The advisory committee will send its recommendation to the FAA on Monday, where a final decision will then be made.

As we reported earlier this week, if the committee’s decision is agreed upon, the proposal will apply to all airlines and all types of airplanes.

“You will be able to read or work on what’s stored on [your] device,” said Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel industry analyst. “You want to edit that PowerPoint? Great. You want to watch Breaking Bad and you have it downloaded to your smartphone or your tablet? You can continue to do that.” Harteveldt also added that playing games such as Words With Friends will be prohibited because it relies on a data connection.

Airplanes today are equipped to better handle electronic interference from mobile devices, which is why the current regulations seems too irrational in the first place. Even some of today’s biggest companies agree. “This is a big win for customers, and frankly, it’s about time,” said an Amazon spokesman.

A final decision still isn’t expected until next week, with restrictions not being fully lifted until next year. Still, we know that the FAA is at least thinking sensibly about the issue, and is open to changing its stance on mobile electronic use. More time to play Plants vs. Zombies 2 on a five hour flight? Sounds good to me.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...