It’s not a cure for cancer or world peace, but airline travelers got an early Christmas present Thursday: The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it “can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight.”
This being the government, which has no sense of humor, officials missed the chance to call it “the Alec Baldwin rule.”
But now all the tech-addicted folks who can’t go a single minute without their iPads or iPhones or Kindles or whatever won’t have to.
It’s not that I don’t think this is progress. I’m sure it’s important to millions that they be able to catch the latest episode of “True Blood” while the plane is taxiing, taking off and landing, as opposed to having to wait the 10 minutes or so until the big silver metal tube is, you know, actually safely in the air or on the ground or at the gate.
After all, if you’re flying to New York from L.A., you only have five hours or so to kill, so every minute counts. (Oh, and never mind the issue of whether watching what was once labeled porn within eyesight of children is a good thing.)
It’s just that as an infrequent flier and a non-gadget owner — they’re probably great; I just can’t afford one — I was actually hoping for some new FAA rules that would benefit me. Such as:
Banning small children on flights.
Or loud drunks.
Or really fat people.
Or the guy in back of you kicking your seat, or the guy in front of you who pushes his seat-back back as far as it will go during that 11-hour flight to Paris.
Or the person who a) won’t shut up; b) has a nasty cold or c) smells really bad.
But no, the FAA is more concerned that those who are connected, stay connected.
If you’re confused, over at Forbes.com, contributor Andrew Bender gives a nice history lesson in all of this. And the Associated Press answers some questions. Though, this being the government, and the airlines (kind of like the government and health insurance companies), expect some glitches.
For example, the AP story has this: “Also, to the people now lamenting that this will bring the end to the tech-sabbath refuge of the fuselage — be assured not much will really change. People were always allowed to use electronics after takeoff, and cell phones still cannot be used to make calls in the air. Also, no citizen of the civilized world should ever use electronic devices without headphones on public transportation. The only difference now is that you can continue using your laptop or iPad during takeoff.”
Except, except, heavier items, such as laptops, will still be banned on takeoff and landing because in the, ahem, unlikely event of a crash, those items can become cruise missiles in the cabin.
Which must give TMZ hope that Alec Baldwin can still get uppity and disorderly and be thrown off the plane (not that he did that, of course; it’s those awful tabloids).
In the end, there’s only really one win-win in this: Passengers still won’t be able to make cellphone calls in flight.
Bless you, FAA.