By now, travelers know the in-flight no-electronics ritual. Minutes before takeoff and landing, flight attendants prowl the aisles for stragglers who can’t pull themselves away from their iPhones and Kindles. But this ritual is expected to change soon–a federal advisory panel of government and aviation industry officials is expected this week to recommend the FAA revise electronics rules in-flight and make them much more flexible.
In a statement, the FAA said that “consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft. That is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions. The group is meeting again this week and is expected to complete a report to the FAA by the end of the month. We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps.”
The likely change is the result of stars aligning on several fronts. Airlines are unhappy that diverting flight attendants to electronics-inspection detail costs them money, passengers hate the inconvenience, and legislators see in-flight electronic reform as an easy portfolio item for reelection. But any proposed changes will only effect electronics like Kindles and iPads: Smartphones are still prohibited during takeoff and landing by FCC order, which is an entirely separate bureaucracy.