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

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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  • It’s just like when I ask you to take your shoes off in my house. I don’t care whether they’re dirty. I don’t care whether you have had them concealed in bags and kept shoe-store-fresh from when you bought them to when you arrived at my front door. You’re in my house, so you follow my rules. It’s that simple.

    I’ll never understand why people are so arrogant or self absorbed that their particular case gives them the right to do whatever they want.

    It’s exactly like the “it’s only me” principle. It’s not only you, it’s only you and every other asshole with the same self-serving attitude.

    • ^ This.

      Also, I’m of the opinion that I should be paying attention in the unlikely event of an emergency..

      • They use that line, but it’s complete BS.
        You’re allowed to sleep, watch the in screen TV or read a magazine. Why is that any different?

      • Errr… I’m pretty sure it’s only the assholes that think that, particularly the cowardly ones that sign in as a guest to thump their chest..! Now go away I’m not playing this game with you…

  • Its not cause it interferes with the aircraft’s electronics. Its because it is a loose object that can cause harm flying around the cabin in the event of an accident. Think about it – the aircraft’s electronics operate for the whole flight, and a tray table [also something that can cause harm] has no electronics, yet it is also stowed.

      • Books are considerable less dense that portable electronics and therefore far less likely to injure other passengers. I’d far rather have a paperback thrown at me than a phone/ereader.
        Many of the “phone off etc.” type statements from airlines more or less say “Whether or not your gizmos stuff up the plane, they could become a dangerous projectile. Put them away.”

        • You’re allowed to hold your handbag on your lap. Most handbags are full of crap that could fly around if things got hairy. It’s no difference.

          Plus, a kindle weighs bugger all.

        • Books are considerable less dense that portable electronics and therefore far less likely to injure other passengers. I’d far rather have a paperback thrown at me than a phone/ereader.

          Lol what?
          Stacked paper (see: wood) is most certainly more dense than an ereader, and most certainly weighs more as well. You may have a point that ereaders have a harder edge than a paperback, but given they typically weigh less than 150g…it’s hardly dangerous.

    • The tray table is stowed during takeoff and landing because these are the times when planes most often crash. Having your tray table down blocks the exit in the unfortunate event of an emergency.

  • It amazes me how many people forget that cabin crew don’t make the rules… they are just trying to enforce the rules.
    If they don’t enforce the rules they can lose their job. These are busy, hard-working people.
    I’m amazed how many times I see someone try to have an ‘informed argument’ with a member of the cabin crew (“My uncle is an electronics engineer…”) over the merits or technical basis of the rules… the cabin crew don’t care… they have stuff to do.
    I imagine they have the same conversation several times a day… imagine meeting a new jerk every couple of hours, who is trying to tell you how RF interference really works and how their iPad can’t make a difference… not a fun part of the job.

  • On a recent domestic flight the man next to me was asked to turn off his phone (I assume it was in flight mode) before take-off and landing, but I was not asked to stop reading on my Kindle. I decided to keep reading because, well, there wasn’t really a good reason apart from I was having the longest day and didn’t want to read the inflight magazine a fourth time.

    I’m sure it will depend on any individual flight attendant, but it seems the rules are relaxing.

    So my rule – rightly or wrongly, will be to put it away if asked directly.

  • Realistically, they don’t care once actual take off and landing is done.

    If you can’t go 20 minutes total without your device, especially when flying through the sky… Seek help.

  • FFS don’t be a douche bag just turn it off. If you really can’t last 20-30 minutes without a book then get a real book you know the ones printed on dead trees, AKA paper, they are the ones that have pages that turn.

  • Easy, when they ask you to turn it off, just say “OK”, and put it down. They’re not going to check whether it’s actually off.

  • When you see the sky waitress coming, just put the reader in the seatback pocket, or flip it over and set it down elsewhere.

  • I’ve often wondered this myself. As I understand it, the kindle doesn’t draw any current unless you change pages, which is why the charge can last so long. I also haven’t been able to work out how to turn it off (maybe it’s broken), so I usually shove it into a bag.

  • However ereaders often have either or both wifi and mobile data connections…………at the very least you need to ensure that they are turned off for the duration of the flight. I don’t know on yr device powering off does that but it is a standard approach at least.

  • There are two things to consider

    1) Flight Attendants may not know if your device falls in the same category as a phone or other radio transmitting device so it is a one size fits all rule – put away your device for the safety (perceived or otherwise) of everyone on the aircraft.

    2) IF something were to happen – fingers will be pointed. Save yourself all the trouble. Put away your device and enjoy the thrill of the drastic increase in speed as the aircraft takes off – like your very own drag race 🙂

  • Want to know how to turn it off? RTFM! If its a kindle, in standby mode push and hold the power button until the screen goes white. Or as mentioned swallow your pride and it it away when requested.

  • You know how to keep reading an e-reader during takeoff? Fly Business Class.

    Seriously. Every time I fly economy I’m told to shut it off. Every time I fly business I can read the whole way through.

  • The Sony e-readers are easy to turn off… Press and hold the power button (the one that puts it to sleep) and when it asks to shut off the device, press yes.


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