We’ve got Airplane Mode on our phones, there’s WiFi in the cabin itself, so why the heck are we still prohibited from using our phones or tablets during takeoff and landing? We’ve asked ourselves that question a number of times before, and the picture seems to be that, despite there being precious little evidence that our electronics would interfere with plane systems, airlines have been hesitant to change their standard operating procedure. Change may be coming, at least if the FCC has anything to say about it; Chairman Julius Genachowski has just sent a letter to the FAA urging the agency to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices”.
In his letter, Genachowski rightfully points out just how attached we’ve all become to our mobile electronics. The FAA is currently conducting a review of the rules currently in place, and while it’s said that full-on cellular communication during flights is still off the table, if Genachowski’s pleas fall on the right ears, we may be able to use smartphones and tablets in Airplane Mode from the moment we sit down until we’re off the plane.
While this all sounds promising, we realize just how slowly airlines and the FAA can be to act; after all, what do they have to gain from changing the rules? This is surely a sign that things are moving in the direction of change, but it’s too soon to really say how things will work out.