Ask LH: Do I Have To Turn My Ereader Off On Planes?

Dear Lifehacker, Do I have to turn off my ereader during take-off and landing? I have a Sony Reader — it uses virtually no power at all. The “off” switch simply disables the touch screen so you don’t accidentally flip through pages whilst carrying it around. Every time I am using it on a flight, I am asked by the cabin crew to turn it off for take-off. When I try to explain to them that it doesn’t turn off, I end up being dubbed “that person” on the flight and receive snobby service for the remainder of the flight. Can I do anything about this? Thanks, Seat 41A

Picture: Getty Images

Dear Seat 41A,

We sympathise a little: it’s a definite pain not being able to use your ereader during take-off and landing. I love my Kindle — no more lugging spare books just in case I run out of reading matter on a long flight — but it sucks not being able to use it for a chunk of the journey.

Nonetheless, ereaders fall into the same category as mobile phones and laptops: they can potentially interfere with aircraft navigation systems when in use. That risk isn’t massive, but it isn’t non-existent either. It’s not practical to expect cabin crew to recognise devices as “exceptions”, so the rule is universal.

And to be frank, I think you’re approaching this the wrong way. Many ereaders are fast to load and don’t show much evidence of being ‘on’ or ‘off’, but is one very big indicator that you brush off far too casually in your question: the fact that you continue using it.

No-one on the cabin crew is going to check whether your device is actually fully off (based on my own observations, the vast majority of passengers put their devices into flight mode but don’t actually power them down completely). However, if you continue to actively use it after being asked not to and use “I can’t turn it off” as an excuse, you’re being a jerk and you’ll be treated like a jerk. Put it in the seat pocket and arm yourself with a magazine, or take a power nap. That’s what everyone else is doing.

It’s possible that in the future we’ll see rules relaxed a little and you’ll be able to use your ereader throughout the flight. But until that time, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us, and whining about how “I can’t turn my device off” makes you look petty and stupid. Not being able to read an ebook for 30 minutes or so is very much a first world problem.


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