In-Flight Electronics: The Role Associations Played in Making It Happen

The Federal Aviation Administration's approval of portable electronics during takeoffs and landings came through much inter-industry collaboration. Now, many associations are looking forward to a few more gadgets in the cabin.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the use of portable electronics during takeoffs and landings came after much inter-industry collaboration. Now, many associations are looking forward to a few more gadgets in the cabin.

The move to bring airline passengers the ability to use devices during takeoffs and landings didn’t happen overnight—far from it, in fact.

Numerous associations, unions, airlines, technology and aerospace companies, regulators, and others took part in the Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PED ARC), which put together a proposal [PDF] on the issue last month—leading to FAA approval on Thursday.

It was a long process, but in the end, you’ll get your Candy Crush Saga. More info on where industry groups stand on the proposal below:

Tech industry cheers: The Consumer Electronics Association, one of the leading advocates of the policy change and a PED ARC member, said the decision would bring regulations “up to speed with the 21st century.” One company that felt an immediate impact from the decision was Gogo LLC, the leading provider of Wi-Fi services on commercial flights, which can now offer those services during takeoffs and landings, according to the FAA rules. (It was unclear whether that would be the case when the proposal landed at the FAA last month.) Reuters reports that Gogo’s share price went up significantly after the news.

Travel groups on board: Two major travel industry groups, the Global Business Travel Association and the U.S. Travel Association, were strongly in favor of the decision, with the USTA saying that the move was “forward thinking” and would lead to job growth. Meanwhile, the GBTA said that the change was heartening but stressed the need for proper policies. “Although this is encouraging news, business travelers recognize that safety is the number one priority and must never be compromised,” GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick said in a statement.

Flight attendants raise safety concerns: One group was more tentative on the rule change. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), in a statement, welcomed the use of electronic devices, as long as they don’t get in the way of flight attendants’ focus on safety. “As the use of PEDs on aircraft expands in the future, AFA will work diligently alongside the FAA and industry to find creative, science-based approaches to ensure that passengers comply with the new operator policies and that their attention is not diverted from the important safety information provided by cabin crew during routine pre-flight briefings and unexpected emergencies, and that risks posed by loose items in the cabin are safely managed during the most critical portions of flight,” AFA, which was also a PED ARC member, wrote in the statement.

So what’s next for air travelers? Well, a little bit of waiting. FAA says it will take several months for the airlines to determine whether their planes can safely handle radio interference from devices. If you regularly fly Delta, it may happen sooner rather than later—the airline was the first to submit an implementation plan.

Looking forward to using your iPad on a flight? Tell us about it in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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