FAA could relax tablet and e-reader use rules for US travelers

Rules regarding the use of some electronic devices during take-off and landing on US flights could be relaxed before the end of the year.

According to a piece in the New York Times by Nick Bilton, the Federal Aviation Administration not only has been re-examining the issues surrounding the use of tablets, notebooks and e-readers on US flights, but could change its current rules -- which prohibit the use of such devices during take-off and landing -- before 2014.

"According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing," Bilton wrote.

At the moment no electronic item can be used during take-off or landing and the use of smartphones is banned in its entirety from the moment of boarding a flight right through to disembarkation at the traveler's destination point.

As Bilton outlines in his piece, the FAA currently outlaws the use of some electronic devices, but not others, at certain stages of a flight, for fear of radio or electronic interference that could have an impact on a plane's sensors or navigation systems. "To add to the confusion, the FAA permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though those give off more electronic emissions than reading tablets," writes Bilton.

As well as to clear up this confusion and address what many see as a double standard, the FAA is reportedly taking steps to update its procedures in order to be ready for the arrival of Google Glass headsets and Apple iWatches, neither of which is currently legislated for.

In Europe, a similar set of rules apply but the reason for their existence is given as ensuring that passengers are giving the flight crew their full and undivided attention during the pre-flight safety talk and at the two most critical points in an aircraft's journey -- take-off and landing.

ch/cm

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