The FAA has recently moved to reverse its long-standing and highly unscientific ban on using electronic devices during some phases of an airliner's flight, and now Southwest is the first U.S. airline to adopt the rules and allow literally gate-to-gate use of devices like tablets, e-readers, and smartphones that are connected to its in-plane Wi-Fi service.
The move is said to be possible because Southwest uses a special satellite data service to connect its fliers to the Net, via a company called Row 44. Many other airlines use a rival service from Gogo for their in-flight wireless network.
Europe's authorities have followed the FAA's maneuver, and are also changing regulations to allow airlines to broadcast private in-aircraft 3G and 4G data networks, as an alternative solution to Wi-Fi Internet connectivity.
[Image: Flickr user Stuart Seeger]