FAA Says It Will Be Months Before In-Flight Electronics Ban Is Lifted

Just two days ago, it seemed that the Federal Aviation Administration was finally going to relax the rules that require passengers to stow away electronic devices during take-off and landing. Now it appears, however, that travelers will have to wait months before the new regulations go into effect.

Even though the FAA has prepared a draft report that says that nixing the ban on electronics usage under 10,000 feet is long overdue, it also cautions that there were will be months of testing to determine which aircraft models are most vulnerable to potential electromagnetic interference from electronic devices used by passengers.

The FAA doesn’t have a specific timeline for lifting the regulations, a potentially lengthy process that will include safety assessments, crew training, PR campaigns and coordination with foreign regulators. Futhermore, the WSJ says that the report’s conclusions could be changed before it is due in September, which means that the passengers may have to wait even longer.

Despite the periodic promises from the FAA that it will eventually get rid of the ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing, plenty of passengers are already taking matters into their own hands. A study cited by the agency shows that less than 60% of passengers say they always turn their devices off completely when asked to do so by flight staff. In fact, many don’t even know that it’s unacceptable to use their smartphones, tablets and e-readers below 10,000 feet.

Adding to the confusion is that tablets and other electronic devices are used increasingly by pilots and flight attendants during takeoff, which the FAA’s report admits sends mixed messages to passengers.

Though changes to the current rules might take a while longer, the air travel industry has made dramatic strides in how it views passengers’ electronic devices. Just two years ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group that represents over 240 airlines, said that gadgets posed an even greater risk than originally thought, with the two most dangerous devices being the iPad and iPhone.

Though it will be a while before passengers enjoy the benefits of the FAA’s change of heart, it still represents a dramatic shift in how a very cautious industry views personal electronics.