About a year ago, the FAA gloriously adjusted their guidance regarding the use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. For the first time in years, travelers could boldly and proudly listen to music or play Two Dots or mindlessly click into social apps (forgetting there’s no service in the sky) without fear of reprimand from flight attendants.
Turns out, the largest flight attendants union in the country aren’t enjoying the change.
The Association of Flight Attendants argued in court on Friday that the FAA didn’t follow the proper protocol in changing guidelines around use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. According to the AFA, portable electronic devices are distractions during safety announcements and can become dangerous projectiles.
In response, a lawyer for the FAA (Jeffrey Sandberg) told judges that PEDs are no more dangerous than books that passengers have had out for years.
Beyond concerns around safety distractions and flying smartphones, the Association of Flight Attendants also argued that the FAA didn’t properly handle the process of changing its guidance. According to the lawyer for the flight attendants union, Amanda Dure, the FAA didn’t follow the guidelines of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires government agencies to give public notice and allow time for commenting when a rule is changed.
A report from the AP suggests that the three-judge panel presiding over the case didn’t seem swayed by the flight attendants’ argument.
Since announcing changes to guidance last year, the FAA has approved 31 different airline operators (covering the vast majority of the market) to allow passengers to use approved portable electronic devices. That process includes outfitting the plane to protect against electronic interference and approval from the FAA, as well as changes to the airlines’ own PED policy.
Remember, the decision over whether or not passengers can use their cellphones during flight has, since the announcement of the change, always been in the hands of the airlines themselves. In other words, the announcement from the FAA to approve use of these devices is not the final say.