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October 13, 2014

Flight Attendants Union Challenges FAA Decision Allowing Passengers to Use Electronics in All Phases of Flight

by John_A

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) launched a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last Friday in protest over the FAA’s decision to allow passengers to use their iPads, iPhones, and other small portable electronic devices in nearly all phases of flight.

As outlined by the Associated Press (via TechCrunch), the lawsuit alleges that the FAA “acted improperly” and failed to follow proper protocol implementing the changes. A lawyer for the Association of Flight Attendants argued that portable electronic devices distract passengers from safety announcements and can “become dangerous projectiles.”

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Dure argued that in greenlighting the expanded use of electronics, officials violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The act requires government agencies to give the public notice and the ability to comment when a rule is changed. That didn’t happen properly, the union argues.

FAA lawyer Jeffrey Sandberg responded to the AFA’s allegations by suggesting portable electronic devices are “no more dangerous” than the books passengers have been allowed to keep out during landing and takeoff. The government agency also suggested that the policy change did not trigger the requirements for public notice.

Officially implemented in October of 2013, the FAA’s policy change on portable electronic devices allows smaller electronics, like iPhones and iPads, to be used during all phases of flight. Prior to the rule change, all electronics were required to be stowed away until an altitude of 10,000 feet was reached.

Though devices can now be used during landing and takeoff, passengers are still required to place them into airplane mode, restricting cellular access. Usage of larger devices, like laptop computers, continues to be restricted for safety reasons.

While the FAA enacted the policy change that allows passengers to use their devices in all phases of flight, airlines have always had control over the implementation of the rule. Individual airlines, as the FAA points out, have control over when and if passengers are able to use their electronic devices in flight. A judge hearing the case expressed a similar sentiment, telling the AFA that “Airlines have always had discretion on how to handle this.”

Thus far, the FAA has cleared 31 airline operators to allow passengers to use portable electronics during landing/takeoff and combined, those operators carry 96 percent of all U.S. commercial passengers.



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