by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved Delta Airlines and JetBlue Airways for expanded airplane electronic use, making them the first two airlines to be able to allow passengers to keep their gadgets on during the entire lengths of flights.
The airlines touted the early implementation of new rules, seeking to turn their passengers’ ability to continue using their tablets and e-readers into a competitive advantage.
“The boarding door has now closed, it’s time to turn off all portable electronic devices…or is it,” Delta tweeted Saturday.
JetBlue said its first flight with expanded electronic use was a 4:30 p.m. flight from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport to Buffalo.
The airline said in a statement that “all JetBlue customers were immediately allowed to start using personal electronic devices during all phases of flight, on all flights.
“I’d like to thank the FAA and especially Administrator Michael Huerta for their adoption of the committee’s recommendations and for moving very quickly to allow us to make this enhancement available to all JetBlue customers starting today,” JetBlue President Dave Barger said.
The FAA announced that it was relaxing its prohibition on electronic use during the take-offs and landings of flights on Thursday. Previously, airline passengers have been required to turn off all electronic devices when airplanes are below 10,000 feet.
The FAA’s announcement was met with enthusiasm from passengers and consumer groups, but the agency warned it would likely take awhile before all airlines were enforcing the new rules.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta predicted it would take until the end of the year for all airlines to submit requests for expanded electronic use and win approval from the agency. The FAA attributed the differing timetables to “differences among fleets and operations.”
Huerta said this week that while the FAA was providing implementation rules for airlines to expand their passengers’ ability to use electronics on-board flights immediately, it is still incumbent on the carriers to request permission for the change.
Passengers on airlines that are approved to expand electronic use will still be required to operate their devices only in airplane mode. The FAA said that it will maintain its existing ban on devices that download data, and cell phone use will also continue to be prohibited until planes are safely on the ground.