The Tech Landscape on Airplanes Could Change

With the Federal Aviation Administration considering changes to in-flight electronic rules, an association's new study shows many travelers don't even turn their devices off. Meanwhile, WiFi could soon become a bit faster on flights.

If you’re traveling a lot, you know all too well that electronics and flying have a complicated relationship at best right now.

The WiFi is slow, and you can’t use your mobile device for seemingly half the flight. But the dynamic is starting to shift, and, as a new study shows, many people may not even properly follow the common airline request to turn their electronics off.

Some quick tidbits on in-flight electronics for business travelers:

Do people really shut off their devices? It’s a standard-issue request: Turn off your electronics during takeoffs and landings. However, as the Consumer Electronics Association found out in a recent study, nearly one-third of passengers (30 percent) say that they’ve accidentally left devices on during flights. While most people (59 percent) say they shut off their electronics completely, another 21 percent say they set their devices to airplane mode instead of turning them off—with smartphones being the most likely device that users keep on even when asked to do otherwise. “And, of course, that’s what people will admit to in a survey,” AllThingsD’s Ina Fried snarked about the study, which comes at an interesting time for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA is currently discussing a plan to loosen rules on in-flight use of electronics.

Why in-air WiFi stinks: For years, wireless users could get online midflight, except with a couple of caveats—a high price ($14 for an all-day pass on Gogo Internet) and sluggish speeds. However, the Federal Communications Commission is working on this, according to CNNMoney—with a proposal suggesting the opening of 500 megahertz of spectrum, a major upgrade from the 3MHz currently available. The idea is that the wider spectrum would increase competition and potentially lower prices. But don’t get too excited yet. That swath of spectrum is currently used by the satellite industry, and while in-flight internet access would cohabit with satellite signals, the Satellite Industry Association has expressed concerns that it could degrade the industry’s service.

If you’re a road warrior, what’s on your in-flight tech wish list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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