A 28-member FAA advisory committee has recommended that the organization loosen its limits on the use of various electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. A vote by the panel took place on Thursday, an anonymous source told the AP.
The recommendation had been expected, as we reported in late June.
The recommendation hasn't been sent to the FAA yet, or announced officially. The source said that the decision will be sent to the agency on Monday.
Assuming the panel's recommendation holds sway, as many believe, passengers would have greater leeway to use most devices below an altitude of 10,000 feet. Some devices, though, would need to be switched to airplane mode, cutting off their connection to data services.
At those altitudes, surfing the Internet, the downloading of data, and speaking on the phone would still be prohibited.
Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing reacted the information as follows:
You will not be able to play "Words With Friends;" you will not be able to shop; you will not be able to surf websites or send email.
[However] You will be able to read or work on what's stored on the device. You want to edit that PowerPoint? Great. You want to watch `Breaking Bad' and you have it downloaded to your smartphone or your tablet? You can continue to do that.
It's unclear if Harteveldt's comment was referring to the famous Alec Baldwin American Airlines incident when he mentioned "Words With Friends."
In December of 2011, Baldwin was booted off of a plane when he reportedly refused to stop playing the popular "Words With Friends" game. Of course, Baldwin and American Airlines had differing accounts of the incident, but it was basically as described above.
Currently, passengers are required to turn off electronic devices -- including smartphones and tablets -- while planes are below 10,000 feet, reportedly to safeguard against possible interference with sensitive cockpit equipment. Since takeoffs and landings are the most critical phases of a flight, restrictions have been made.
However, critics long have complained that fears over interference are groundless, and that newer aircraft are better equipped to prevent electronic interference.