So after months of rumours, it’s official: the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow airlines to apply for approval for passengers to use electronic devices in flight mode throughout a flight, including take-off and landing. Here’s how that will work, and how long we’ll have to wait in Australia.
Plane picture from Shutterstock
The approval doesn’t instantly mean that every passenger within the US can now use their gadgets to their heart’s content. Individual airlines have to seek approval, update their in-flight announcements and ensure staff know the new rules. While some airlines have hinted they will begin offering the option immediately, it will take a while before the policy is universal.
There are also still restrictions. You can’t place phone calls or make use of the mobile network (though you can use in-flight Wi-Fi if your carrier offers it). You’re still supposed to pay attention to the safety briefing (leaving headphones in your ears will be a giveaway there). On flights landing with low visibility (around 1 per cent of the total), devices may be required to be switched off anyway. Especially bulky laptops might also be frowned upon during take-off and landing, and if you are using a laptop, you’ll have to hold it on your lap, not use the tray table.
In Australia, any change will have to be approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). While the FAA change is likely to be endorsed, that could take a while, and individual airlines will still need to apply for approval. A change at some point in 2014 seems likely, but don’t hold your breath right now.