US FAA okays use of most electronics during take-off and landing

Gone are the days of having to sneakily play with your iPad when the flight attendant isn't looking, because the US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration has decided that airline passengers can now safely use portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.

Passengers in the US were previously required to switch off their tech when flying under 10,000 feet. But that's no longer the case. Based on advice from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants and the mobile technology industry, etc,  the FAA has decided to appeal its electronics restriction. 

The FAA first revealed in September that it would consider easing restrictions on gadget use during take-off and landing in the country. It said a 28-member advisory committee would submit a recommendation proposal to the FAA that would allow passengers on aircraft to use their devices in airplane mode under 10,000ft. Downloading data, surfing the web and talking on the phone would still not be allowed.

Read: FAA to consider lifting gadget ban on take-off and landing in US

So, what is allowed now? Passengers can read eBooks, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with "very limited exceptions". It's not yet clear what those exceptions include, though the FAA said electronic items must be held or put in the seat back pocket during actual takeoff and landing roll.

The FAA also said cell phones must be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled. That's because FCC regulations still prohibit making any calls from cell phones during flight. Passengers will of course have the opportunity to use the in-flight Wi-Fi service, as well as any short-range Bluetooth accessories they may own.

The implementation of this new decision will vary among airlines because of differences between fleets and operations. However, the FAA expects many carriers will "prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year."

Delta Air Lines has already announced that it would be the first carrier to allow use of portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet as early as 1 November (pending Federal Aviation Administration approval).