A Rant on Flying and Electronic Devices

October 10th, 2009 at 5:13 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

One of my current frustrations with modern air travel on commercial aircraft is the blanket requirement that all electronic devices be turned off during take-off and landing. I have no issue with the idea that those are the most dangerous times during a flight and that the crew wants to make sure passengers are not needlessly distracted by their iPods, PDAs, and computers.

However, the argument posited for why electronic devices need to be turned off is that they may interfere with a plane’s navigational system. Bullpucky. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be possible to offer in-flight WiFi service. Non-commercial aircraft don’t have the electronic device requirement either. For example, Divi Divi, our wonderful local charter airline service between Bonaire and Curacao (which has schedule flight times, but doesn’t operate as a commercial airline), has no restrictions on using cell phones during take off, landing, and flight. For that matter, I understand that private jets don’t either.

So, the whole “electronic device” restriction seems to be nothing more than a convenient lie to achieve an alternate goal, namely keeping passengers undistracted. However, at the same time, passengers are welcome to read whatever they want during these critical times. Unless, of course, the reading source is an eBook, such as a Sony Reader or an Amazon Kindle. Nevermind that these devices don’t consume any power except when you’re “turning” pages due to the way eInk/ePaper functions. And while you can actually shut off a Sony Reader, a Kindle is always on (unless it’s run out of juice) (although you can shut off the wireless capability pretty easily).

Flight attendants have recently started adding the phrase “anything that has an on/off switch” as a criteria, presumably because people were trying to figure out how to temporarily shut off their watches and pace makers. And, I will point out that in all of my thousands of flights, I’ve never seen a flight attendant ask someone to shut off a camera (an electronic device) when they were taking pictures during take-off or landing.

That said, all I would really like to see changed in the current policy is airlines not lying to their customers about the reason for not using electronic devices, as well as not discriminating between permitted media formats for people reading standalone text. If my seatmate can read a paperback book, magazine, or newspaper, I should be able to read my Kindle or Sony Reader.

Or if the airline is truly serious about wanting passengers’ undivided attention, they should ban reading, talking, sleeping, and all other distracting actions during take-off and landing. Of course that would make things like the 45-minute wait on the runway for a departure slot I just experienced earlier today in Atlanta a true ordeal.


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3 Responses to “A Rant on Flying and Electronic Devices”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Why is it I suddenly want to stand up and yell “Right On” ?!?!?!?…I always though the “approved” electronic devices was a Scam !!!!

  2. Luis Figueroa Says:

    I wondered if FAA felt it was a safety issue as take off and landings is where there is higher likelyhood of crashing. (and concern of being hurt by flying BB, laptop..)

    The valid concern is the Bose headset, people listining to music, dozing off during take off and landing that may not hear the Put your head between your legs and assume the position.

    I agree interfering with plane’s navigation is bull***

  3. Kitty Says:

    For a few years now I have kept my mobile phone and/or PDA switched on while taking off, landing and during flights. I have always reached my destinations safely ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the way, the past two weeks Divi Divi pilots did halfheartedly say that mobile phones should be switched off, but did not check nor said anything when one of the passengers was text-messaging during the journey ๐Ÿ˜€