Flying Without Devices May Soon Be a Thing of the Past

US Airways Airplanes

Pretty soon, air travelers may no longer hear instructions to turn off their personal electronic devices including e-readers, tablets, and smartphones on airplanes flying below 10,000 feet. According to Bloomberg, an advisory committee to the Federal Aviation Administration has officially concluded that passengers onboard airplanes should be allowed to access their devices even during takeoff and landing.

The recommendations made to the FAA by the 28-member committee reflect a change in the current policy that prohibits the use of devices while a plane is below 10,000 feet — except in the case of portable recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers and electric shavers. However, any new mandate would still require that some devices be switched to airplane mode, and mobile phone calls and text messages would remain forbidden.

The pressure for a rule change comes as passengers increasingly voice their dissatisfaction with a regulation that many flight crew members and pilots already ignore. USA Today highlights that many fliers now complain about airline employees increasingly using their personal devices inflight, and it is also understood that pilots employ the use of iPads and other tablet devices in the cockpit, as well.

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The FAA won’t receive the formal recommendation until Monday — thus, any new rule is still only a possibility for the future, and it is still unclear if the regulatory body will even agree. Bloomberg reports that each aircraft type would have to prove to the FAA that it can safely fly with electronic devices on and in use before the FAA could move any further with its considerations, but the committee is confident aircrafts could pass such tests.

Frequent fliers everywhere will likely welcome the new rules should they come to fruition, and it’s not only consumers who would reap a new mandate’s benefits. Many businesses would, too, especially Gogo Inflight Inc., an inflight Wi-Fi service provider, along with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). Qualcomm just recently won regulatory clearance to provide air-to-ground broadband service for Wi-Fi-equipped planes.

Allowing passengers to use Wi-Fi services for longer periods would undoubtedly improve both Gogo and Qualcomm’s business, but especially Gogo, since its main revenue source comes from connection and usage charges. Thus, while it is still unknown if the FAA will agree to the rule changes, we already at least know two companies that definitely would.

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