Using Devices While Flying: An Airline Guide

December 12th, 2014
Using Devices While Flying: An Airline Guide

By Naomi Dolin-Aubertin

I flew home for Thanksgiving, and as I settled into my seat with my book, turning on the little yellow light above my head, I was struck by the number of glowing screens around me. It wasn't just the fatuous glow of the inset TV monitors exhorting chair-bound flyers to buy content during the flight (why are those things so hard to turn off?), but tablets, e-readers, and even phones. The guy two isles up was reading on his phone, the woman across from me was flipping digital pages on her iPad. Some of these people were noticeably disconcerted when the stewardess announced that all larger electronics needed to be turned off until we were in the air.

Digital readership is nearly ubiquitous today. Since phones no longer need to be turned off during flight (simply put in airplane mode), flyers seem confused as to which devices they can use when - and how. In addition, airlines are beginning to implement in-flight wi-fi, connecting even the skies to endless entertainment and business.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my devices. I have a smart phone and an e-reader.. But until recently, airplanes not only gave me permission to disconnect, they required me to do so. And I see that flying time as sacrosanct. It's time out of time, really. So while, I'll stick with my paper books, I'm going to give a breakdown of airline regulations on the use of digital devices in flight for all of you flying over the holiday season.

Restricted Usage:

Southwest policies prohibit the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing, however, once in the air they offer Wi-Fi for a fee. Spirit also forbids portable electronic device use during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

Gate to Gate Usage:

Delta airlines has a gate to gate policy for the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) meaning you most likely won't have to put down your book, or work, or game, for takeoff or landing. JetBlue does the same, except for times of low visibility.

United permits the use of most devices at all times, unless specified by the flight crew under certain conditions. They are also equipped for wi-fi.

American Airlines has some serious perks to offer connected travelers, including paid wi-fi access and power outlets in their business and first class seats. They're supplements for their gate to gate policy.

Frontier Airlines answer to the question is "Welcome to the 21st Century!" You can use most small devices in airplane mode from gate to gate. Ditto for US Airways, albeit with a little less pizzazz.

Going to Alaska or Hawaii or just flying their airline? They've got you covered, too. For a highly amusing list of things you can't take to Hawaii, click here. My personal favorites:

  1. Any internal combustion engine, including but not limited to chainsaws (I thought this was a given)
  2. Swingless golf clubs (I'm no golfer, but I'd love to know what that means)
  3. Hand/Toe Warmers considered as an "EMT". (Really Hawaii, hand warmers?)

Happy, connected (and safe) travels!

Feature photo via PedroJPerez.

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