FAA Changes Rules on Electronic Devices in Flight

electronic devices in flight

Actor Alec Baldwin would be thrilled. The Federal Aviation Commission has officially approved use of electronic devices in all stages of flight, with a few exceptions.

You may recall Baldwin was famously ejected from a flight back in 2011 after he refused to stop playing a game on his phone.

But for small business people who travel regularly, this is good news too. It means possibly being able to get a little extra work done while waiting for takeoff and landing.

The new FAA rules apply specifically to e-readers, laptops, tablets and, in some cases, smartphones. But they must be switched to airplane mode or have their cellular signal disabled. Laptops and other larger devices must still be stowed during takeoff and landing.

Previously, use of electronic devices was only permitted above certain altitudes.  Now many electronic devices can be used “gate to gate.”  Individual airlines are implementing the new policy one by one after getting FAA approval.  JetBlue, for instance, adopted the policy effective November 1, 2013 for its airline.  The JetBlue announcement says:

“Prior to the new policy, customers had to turn off and stow all electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, landing and when the aircraft was below 10,000 feet. The new policy allows JetBlue customers to use smart phones, tablets, games and other smaller electronic devices at any time during taxi, takeoff and during flight, unless otherwise instructed by a crewmember. Laptops must be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing.”

Voice Calls Still Not Allowed

Sorry, voice calls still won’t be permitted during flight. But short range devices including Bluetooth accessories used for mobile keyboards will.

Under certain conditions such as low visibility, the aircraft pilot or crew might still ask passengers to turn off electronic devices during landing.

Airlines may begin allowing expanded use of portable electronic devices by passengers inflight as soon as they certify the aircraft can tolerate interference caused by the devices, the FAA says.

However, many airlines have already begun allowing expanded use of the devices on flights, Entrepreneur reports.

But don’t necessarily expect expanded privileges with your electronic devices on your next flight. Be sure to ask the airline’s policy ahead of time, if possible, on using your tablet or e-reader.

Mobile Photo via Shutterstock


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

10 Reactions
  1. Hi,

    I think, This is good news for any person who relies on their new iPad to keep them amused throughout long flights.


  2. Hi Josh, yes, this is good news! It might actually start to make air travel tolerable. One less annoyance….

    – Anita

    • Hi Anita,
      Yep, now you can use your laptop without anyone lecturing you and sleep in a pod before your flight. Tolerable is the word. 🙁

  3. I’m wondering: How will they be able to detect that a device when being used by a passenger is in airplane mode or that the cellular signal is disabled? Will the flight attendants be checking that or will there be an automated way of doing it? Or is it down to trust?

    • I don’t think that they have the time to check each device on the airplane so I guess it all boils down to trust. But then again, you cannot answer text messages and receive calls or even play games so it is quite useless to leave it on especially if you’re going to put other people in danger.

      • Aira: My concern is that some people are so used to being on their smartphones and other devices (to the point of addiction/obsession in some cases) that some may choose to do it anyway, not fully grasping the potential danger doing so may pose.