The United States today announced that air travellers would be able to use portable electronic devices like smartphones and tablet computers during all phases of flights.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which announced the relaxation in rules with some circumstantial restrictions and issued guidelines for airlines, said it expects the measure to be fully implemented by the yearend.
"We believe today’s decision honours both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
"These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future."
FAA said passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions.
Electronic items, books and magazines must be held or put in the seat back pocket during takeoff and landing, it said.
Cell phones should be in flight mode or with cellular service disabled – no signal bars displayed — and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones, FAA said.
"If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards," FAA said.
The authority said it based its decision on inputs from a group of experts, including representatives from airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants and the mobile technology industry.
"I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs on airplanes," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Till now, passengers in the US were prohibited from using the devices until aircraft rose above 10,000 feet. The FAA had earlier claimed that using the devices during takeoff and landing posed a safety issue and that radio signals could interfere with an aircraft's communications and navigation systems.
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