Attorneys representing the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals late last week that the ban on in-flight electronics the FAA lifted a year ago should be reinstated for the safety of airline passengers. The Flight Attendants union thinks portable electronics use during takeoff and landing poses a serious risk and that the FAA made a mistake when it opened the doors for airlines to allow their use from gate to gate.
Flight attendants want to stop gate-to-gate electronics use
Union attorney Amanda Duré told the court that the FAA's policy change violates federal regulations, according to the Wall Street Journal. She said it's time to change back to the original policy requiring passengers to stow their portable electronics during takeoff and landing.
"Essentially we want to set the reset button to the way personal electronic devices were handled prior to October 2013," she said. Takeoff and landing, she argued, are the most likely parts of a flight to include turbulence and that could lead to smartphones and tablets flying through the plane.
Ms. Duré didn't, however, push for a ban on books during takeoff and landing even though they can just as easily fly through the cabin in turbulence, and in many cases are bigger and heavier than the electronic devices flight attendants want to see stowed.
The union's attorney also argued that passengers aren't listening to pre-flight safety instructions, which poses another risk because they won't know what to do in an in-flight emergency or crash landing — an argument that presumes substantially fewer passengers listen to pre-flight safety instructions than did before the ban was lifted.
The FAA said airlines could allow gate to gate electronics use at their own discretion after testing planes to make sure there wouldn't be any interference with flight instruments. The airlines started working on the approval process right away and many were letting passengers use their smartphones and tablets from takeoff to landing in time for the holiday travel season.
Ms. Duré told the court flight attendants aren't opposed to electronic devices being left on, but don't want them in passenger's hands when planes are taking off or landing. They can be powered on, but should be stowed, which seems an awful lot like your mom saying you can go trick-or-treating on Halloween, but you have to wear a coat over your costume.
Airlines are free to allow or block gate-to-gate electronics use, but so far it seems they're more than happy to take advantage of the FAA changes.
Considering how many passengers used their smartphones before the ban was lifted, this fight may be akin to putting toothpaste back in the tube. Passengers are already used to gate-to-gate electronics use, and many saw the ban as inconvenient and pointless before it was lifted. Good luck getting them to change now.