In a much-awaited decision, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed the use of personal electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and mobile phones by passengers during all phases of flight including take-offs, landings and on the ground.
According to the FAA announcement on October 31, 2013, passengers will be able to use their portable electronic devices in airplane mode in aircraft, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.
For in-flight use, cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled (no signal bars displayed) and cannot be used for voice communications as per FCC (the US communications regulator) regulations that prohibit any in-flight voice calls using cell phones.
Passengers will also be allowed to use in-flight WiFi service as well as short-range Bluetooth accessories such as wireless keyboards.
The electronic devices must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll.
The implementation of the new portable electronic device use rules will vary according to the airlines, which are now expected to release guidelines soon for use of electronic devices on their aircraft.
The FAA took the decision after analyzing input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.
The FAA decision comes after a protracted campaign by passenger groups as well as law makers and the electronics industry for relaxation of in-flight electronic device use rules.