FAA Allowing Gate-to-Gate Use of Most Electronic Devices

Andrew Klips  |

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday that air travelers will soon not be asked to turn off their portable electronics devices, or “PEDs,” during portions of a flight, an announcement that has long been expected.  Current regulations only allows use of certain electronic devices above specific altitudes, meaning that travelers are required to turn off their devices for taxi, takeoff and climb and before descending for a landing.

The FAA is immediately providing airlines with guidance on implementing the new rule.  The agency notes that there are differences between fleets and operations, but expects many carriers will be able to prove that their planes will meet the standards that keep passengers safe with portable electronic devices running throughout all phases of a flight.

Travelers will still not be allowed to use cell phones for making calls during flights as Federal Communications Commission regulations dictate that voice communications are not permitted.  Cell phones must be placed in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled.  The Aviation Rulemaking Committee has recommended that the FAA consult with the FCC to review the current rule on no voice communications.

Devices than can be used from gate-to-gate will include e-readers, tablets, gaming devices and iPod-type devices to watch movies, listen to music, play games, etc.  Short-range Bluetooth accessories are permitted.

If an airline offers Wi-Fi service, devices may utilize those services. Shares on in-flight wireless Internet provider GoGo (GOGO) are on the rise today with the FAA announcement. Rival Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (ENT) are also climbing higher.

“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 on airplanes,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

Upon proving that all FAA guidelines are met, individual airlines still have the freedom to decide how they want to implement the new privilege for its customers.

JetBlue Airways (JBLU) said that it has begun the process with the FAA in order to try and become the first airline to incorporate the new regulations.  Delta Air Lines (DAL) thinks it will beat JetBlue to the punch, saying in a statement today that it has completed carrier-defined PED tolerance testing ensuring safety and has submitted the necessary documentation to the FAA for approval.  Delta said it’s ready to start allowing passengers to use PEDs as early as tomorrow, pending approvals.

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