Flight Attendants Want Mobile Device Ban Reinstated - InformationWeek

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10/13/2014
11:05 AM
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Flight Attendants Want Mobile Device Ban Reinstated

Largest union of flight attendants sues FAA, seeks reinstatement of ban against the use of smartphones and tablets during takeoffs and landings.

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Flight attendants don't want passengers using smartphones and tablets during takeoffs and landings anymore. They argue that such use prevents passengers from listening to safety announcements and, further, that the government violated its own rules regarding the stowage of items during the most critical phases of air travel. They want the ban put back in place.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration made it easier for airlines to demonstrate that the use of electronics on planes didn't pose any significant safety risks. The ball got rolling quickly, and by early 2014 most airlines relaxed the rules governing what passengers are allowed to do with their devices on planes.

Prior to the change, all devices, large and small, needed to be turned off and stowed during takeoffs and landings. Passengers were permitted to use devices in airplane mode only when the plane reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. After the change, use of smaller devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, was allowed during takeoffs and landings as long as the wireless radios were turned off. Large devices, such as laptops, still cannot be used until the plane reaches 10,000 feet.

[European Union flights get noisier: Cellphones OK For EU Airlines.]

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is suing the FAA over the change, reported The Wall Street Journal. The lawsuit was filed in December 2013, but only became public last week. The flight attendants' union says since the ban was lifted passengers no longer pay attention to the safety demonstrations that precede each flight. They also claim devices can -- and have -- become projectiles during turbulence. The union further worries the use of devices could impede egress from planes in the event of an emergency during takeoff and landing.

(Source: Tim RT)
(Source: Tim RT)

"Essentially we want to set the reset button to the way personal electronic devices were handled prior to October 2013," said Amanda Duré, an attorney representing the union. Duré said takeoffs and landings are the two most dangerous phases of flight and when the most turbulence and accidents occur.

On its face, this argument makes sense. Since the rules have been relaxed, passengers often begin listening to music or watching movies long before the cabin door shuts. With headphones covering their ears, they often miss pre-flight announcements.

The unions' legal argument stands on entirely different ground. It believes the FAA should have required a formal rule-making process in order to enact change. Instead, it merely issued guidance for the airlines. At issue is the notion of what constitutes luggage. Federal rules mandate that all luggage be stowed during takeoffs and landings. In a court filing the Justice Department said, "Not every single item carried onto a plane (e.g., a cellphone, a book, a pack of gum) necessarily constitutes an 'article of baggage' that must be 'stowed' under the seat or in an overhead compartment."

Use of personal devices has always been a thorny issue on aircraft. The government is still weighing whether or not to allow airlines to make in-flight cellular calling available to passengers. Flight attendants are hoping to keep that particular practice banned before it gets off the ground.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2014 | 2:15:21 PM
While the Union has a point...
... if there are no valid technical or safety reasons for banning in-flight use of electronic devices, then the FAA shouldn't prohibit it; period.  Airlines can make their own decisions and be responsible to their customers for them.

But I'm more than happy to watch the flight attendants go through their safety presentation (which should be live, if only to keep the attendants in practice) and would have no objections to a requirement that passengers put their toys away until after it and any other pre-flight announcements are completed.  Nor would I object to a requrement that those participating in phone conversations or otherwise using electronic devices refrain from annoying their fellow passengers by making excessive noise; enforceable by having a steward confiscate  the device concerned (returnable at the gate).

 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/15/2014 | 2:29:37 PM
Re: Good points, but ...
I think the ban should stay. I think the arguments from flight attendances makes a lot of sense.  Such announcements are very important in case of emergencies and I wouldn't like to be in a plane where electrical devices are flying all over the place during takeoff or landing.   
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2014 | 8:02:29 PM
Re: Good points, but ...
I think personal devices should be put away during takeoff and landing. Seriously, do we really need to be using these gadgets during that time? It seems like a critical moment during flight, and it would make a lot more sense to me if they were all just kept stowed or in a pocket/purse. 
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 4:55:47 PM
Re: Good points, but ...
Agree 100% about cell phones and voice calls, but from the sound of this the attendants also want to revisit letting people read on tablets and e-readers. It makes no sense to throw all devices and actions on those devices into the same regulatory bucket,
BillB031
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BillB031,
User Rank: Moderator
10/13/2014 | 2:10:22 PM
Re: Good points, but ...
Lorna, I don't hear people shouting while reading their novel to everone on the plane.  So many times I've tried listening to gate change information while taxiing, only to have some jackass talking loudly on his cell phone not giving a crap about anyone else.   I'd personally like to see cell phones banned gate to gate.

Whether or not people listen to the safety speel is up to them, but don't impede others the chance to listen to it.  If they don't like it, they can take the Greyhound.

 
PCYoda
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PCYoda,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/13/2014 | 2:01:22 PM
Re: Compromise
For folks that are flying for the very first time, maybe this would make sense.  However, most folks have flown at least once or twice before in their lifetime.  The safety announcements never change - make sure you have your seatbelt on when the light's on, or even when the light isn't on when you're seated; make sure you know where the nearest emergency exit is, even if it's behind you; if the masks come down, put on yours first before helping others... etc etc etc.  Most people that have flown even a couple of times could probably recite the whole damn thing from memory.

The fact is that flight attendants don't care about safety, or at least enforcing all FAA policies around safety, in reality.  I usually sit in the exit rows because I'm very tall, and the requirement is that a person understand English and provide a verbal "yes" when asked if they can perform the requirements of opening the door and keeping the aisle clear in case of an emergency.  First of all, being able to say "yes" doesn't mean that you know English, particularly if you're the 12th person being asked and you just emulate what everyone else did.  Secondly, I've actually been in situations where the flight attendant asked and it was obvious a seated passenger didn't know English, wasn't listening, or otherwise didn't understand and the attendant says something like "just say 'yes', I need you to verbally say 'yes'" - it's like leading the witness.  If that regulation is there for safety, if you ask the question once, maybe twice, and they don't give a "yes" on their own, then perhaps they shouldn't be seated there.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2014 | 1:56:36 PM
Re: Safety Issue
@Gary, not sure I agree with you on that. The little speech they love to give on every flight doesn't make you any safer. Only the pilots and maintenance crew (and maybe Mother Nature) have any influence on whether you land safely or not.

The people sitting by the emergency exits certainly need to make sure they know what to do. It seems pretty obvious that if those masks drop, put it on. But even talking about that takes, what, 30 seconds?

The projectile thing during takeoff and landing makes enough sense to keep. But during the actual takeoff and landing, not the 15 minute taxi out and 20 minute loop until you actually get clearance and start landing.

These flight attendants crack me up, try to pretend they are way more important than the glorified wait staff they really are. What exactly is difference with them and your waiter at local restaurant? If chef is disabled they aren't going to cook for you anymore than they will fly plane if pilot disabled. They are a relic of another time, when TWA first hired good looking stewardesses for same reason an attractive bartender is preferred. Flying used to be an experience like going to a fancy club. Now it is like getting your teeth cleaned at dentist, with possibility they make you wait overnight before they actually get around to the service.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2014 | 1:33:21 PM
Safety Issue
People have gotten much too complacent about air travel. Mobile devices seem to have an almost magical hold on people's attention to the exclusion of everything else. Flight crews should have the undivided attention of fliers during this critical phase of air travel.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 12:54:32 PM
Re: Compromise
@Shane It seems like the flight attendants feel like teachers then. Students can not payattention to the class even when they don't have their devices out. I remember having my own attention wander at times, and I was in school way before these devices came on the market. 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 12:48:49 PM
Re: Compromise
I was going to mention that, Ariella. It's not like people pay attention to the safety presentation anyway. It just seems more rude if a passenger is wearing headphones or staring at a tablet screen.
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