Delta wasted no time in obtaining FAA permission for passenger use of electronics on board aircraft below 10,000 feet– the FAA granted permission almost immediately to both JetBlue and Delta. Other airlines (including Southwest and AirTran) will have to wait a few more weeks until they get FAA approval.
As you know, this was previously deemed to be a safety threat to the aircraft’s electronics and navigation systems. But following significant review, the FAA has determined that is not the case. In fact, many pilots have been using iPads in place of bulky flight manuals, and Delta recently introduced handheld devices for flight attendants, which tend to remain on during all phases of flight, to handle in-flight sales and customer service issues.
The lifting of this unpopular rule will allow passengers to read books or listen to music while taxiing on the ground or in the first final phases of flight. Devices must be in airplane mode under 10,000 feet meaning there is no transmission of data (cell phone or Internet use). It appears this only applies to handheld devices like phones or tablets… laptops will still have to be stowed (likely in the seatback pocket) for landing since they can become dangerous projectiles.
Wireless Internet via Gogo will NOT be available below 10,000 feet— A Gogo spokesperson told The TICKET that “it’s a little of both” when we asked if usage was not possible due to FAA rule, or because the service simply does not work below 10K feet.
Flight attendants are surely pleased with this new rule as it keeps them from having to patrol every single device, but it is still unclear how crew will be checking to see if devices are in airplane mode. During taxi and before takeoff, there is nothing to stop a sneaky passenger from checking their email on a smart phone unless a crewmember was to catch them!
While the rule lifts the previous ban, airlines must still apply to the FAA for permission showing that their aircraft equipment is suitable for the use of these personal devices below 10,000 feet. According to Delta, all mainline aircraft have completed carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of these electronic devices. Delta Connection aircraft should be certified “by the end of the year.”
RELATED: And for those of you wondering about the satellite-based wireless Internet that was supposed to be rolled out on Delta’s international fleet earlier this year, plans have apparently been stalled due to FAA certification snags.
A Delta spokesperson told The TICKET that plans are still in place to hopefully have some aircraft equipped with the service in the next few months with an expected completion date by 2015 of all international aircraft. Keep your fingers crossed! (Won’t it be nice to have wi-fi on the ATL-LAX B777 on its way to Sydney or Tokyo?)