Coming Soon: You Can Leave Your Electronics on During Takeoff and Landing

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The federal government has finally figured out what “airplane mode” means.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after much testing and foot-dragging, announced this week that airlines can allow passengers the use of their electronics during takeoff and landing. It’s working on giving airlines official guidance, but all carriers should be allowing electronics by the end of the year, The Washington Post says.

That means, at long last we will be able to board the plane and get straight to reading or watching a movie on a tablet, playing a video game, or putting on our favorite music. We won’t have to wait half an hour for the flight to be cleared for takeoff, taxi to the runway and get up to the appropriate altitude. The change applies to both domestic and international flights.

Cellphones will need to remain in airplane mode, so you still won’t be able to use data, make calls, or send and receive text messages, the Post says. You may also be required to stow heavier items such as laptops during takeoff and landing — not because they’re electronic, but because they might impede an emergency evacuation.

The decision was pretty much universally praised — which makes you wonder what took so long. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., electronics companies, the U.S. Travel Association, the Travel Technology Association, the Global Business Travel Association and, of course, many passengers approved of the change, the Post says.

The FAA has a question and answer section about the change on its website. It notes there are still situations where airlines can demand that electronics be turned off. For instance, in “a landing in reduced visibility — the captain may tell passengers to turn off their devices to make absolutely sure they don’t interfere with onboard communications and navigation equipment,” the FAA says.

What do you do if the person sitting next to you ignores that command? “You could politely remind the person of the crew’s announcement, but above all, avoid a confrontation,” the FAA says.

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