FAA ends tablet ban during flights

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday announced that it will allow portable electronic devices to be used during the entirety of flights.

The policy change will allow tablets and e-readers to be used, while keeping in place the ban on cellphones.

The new rules will still require passengers to use their devices in airplane mode, a common setting that disables the cellular signal. Passengers will not be permitted to use cell data on any devices while in the air. Wi-Fi, if available, is allowed.

The announcement is a victory for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has pushed for the policy change for the better part of two years. 

She had argued it didn't make sense to not allow travelers to watch movies or read books on their tablets and phones during flights, and hailed Thursday's decision as a victory for common sense. 



“I applaud the FAA for taking the necessary steps to change these outdated regulations and I look forward to the airlines turning around quick plans for implementation,” she said in a statement. 

The FAA had previously imposed the ban as a safety issue, but Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Thursday said the new rules would keep the airways safe while improving the in-flight experience. 

“These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future,” Foxx said in a statement.

The FAA said the implementation of relaxed electronic rules would "vary among airlines," which the agency attributed to "differences among fleets and operations."

But officials expect that all airlines will allow passengers to keep their electronics on from "gate to gate" by the end of the year.

The FAA had been under pressure from lawmakers and airline passengers to relax the rules that prohibit the use of electronics when airplanes are below 10,000 feet.

Electronic industry groups have long made the case that their products do not interfere with flights. 

Travel groups also praised the FAA’s decision.

“We’re pleased the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said in a statement.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the decision was not made quickly or haphazardly.
   
“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,” Huerta said of the panel he created to examine the impact of electronic use on airplanes.