The Federal Aviation Administration has announced plans to ease restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices to play games, read or listen to music during takeoffs and landings of commercial planes.
But federal officials have not lifted restrictions on making cellphone calls from a plane.
Before the changes take effect, the new rules announced Thursday in Washington require airlines to prove that using electronic devices such as electronic readers and tablets on "airplane mode" is safe for their aircraft.
Larger devices, such as laptops, must be stowed during takeoffs and landings to keep them from flying around the cabin during turbulence.
Industry officials warn that the policy, once adopted, could vary from airline to airline. The FAA predicted that most airlines will allow the use of electronic devices by the end of the year.
The change in policy comes in response to recommendations made in early October by a committee that included representatives from the airline and electronics industries, plus pilots and flight attendants.
The new rules were welcomed Thursday by travel industry leaders who said more Americans are likely to fly if the experience is more enjoyable.
“The travel community is grateful, because what’s good for the traveler is good for travel-related businesses and our economy," said Roger Dow, chief executive of the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the country's travel industry.
The change will be a challenge for flight attendants, who have said they worry that it will be tougher to give passengers safety instructions if they are listening to music or reading from an e-reader during takeoffs and landings.
Still, a spokeswoman for a flight attendants' union said they will work to implement new rules to ensure passenger safety.
"The expanded usage of PEDs [portable electronic devices] does not diminish the importance of flight attendant safety briefings and we fully expect that passengers will comply with all crewmember instructions regarding these changes," said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Assn. of Flight Attendants.