Passengers, keep those electronic gadgets off planes and prepare your expectations for landing

The US's Federal Aviation Authority is poised to approve all sorts of personal passenger gadgets for take off. Let's hope the UK's Civil Aviation Authority doesn't follow suit

Share

Technology addicts, rejoice! Soon you may no longer have to endure even a moment’s separation from your gadgets during air travel. The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is set to relax the current ban on the use of laptops, tablets and the like during take-off and landing (though restrictions on internet use will remain in place for now, at least). It seems reasonable to expect the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to soon follow suit. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.

Has new evidence on in-flight safety come to light? It has not. Instead, in a statement, the FAA attributes its regulations review to “intensely interested” consumer feedback. In other words, it gave in to pressure from pushy passengers. This debate is clearly short on hard, scientific evidence, so allow me to present my own anecdotal findings; these show a strong correlation between frequent flyer types (politicians, CEOs, Alec Baldwin – who was kicked off a flight for using his mobile phone) and people with an inflated sense of their own importance (politicians, CEOs, Alec Baldwin).

Those who oppose the ban call it arbitrary, and they do have a point. Vague claims of “electromagnetic interference” from airlines and the aviation authorities do sound suspiciously like a rejected Star Trek sub-plot, and those sturdy Boeing 747s seem unlikely to drop out of the sky just because an aisle seat passenger in row F sends a verboten text message. The FAA and the CAA have cited examples of aircraft navigation errors coinciding with the use of electronic devices, but neither body has yet offered evidence of a direct, causal link.

Still, the blanket ban isn’t in place because all electronic devices pose a grave threat to safety; it’s in place because some electronic device may pose a grave threat to safety – and that’s justification enough. The only truly safe alternative would be to individually test each new device for aircraft use – a costly measure that’s all but impossible for cabin crew to enforce. We’re all incredibly busy, extremely important people, of course, but is a few minutes of gadget-free peace in exchange for safer travel really such an insufferable imposition?

These points are soon to be lost amid the din of message-alert tones. No matter. Perhaps the greatest public good the ban offered was, in any case, dependent on passengers continuing to believe themselves at the mercy of the petty whims of despotic cabin crew. Now that the culture of consumer entitlement has spread into all sorts of inappropriate contexts, arbitrary rules are a useful reminder that the customer isn’t always right – not when the “customer” is also a “passenger”; one of several, in fact, who’ve all paid for experts to ensure their safety. Say what you like about the Ryanair experience, at least they treat passengers with the indifference we so clearly deserve.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
On alert: Security cordons around Cardiff Castle ahead of this week’s Nato summit  

Ukraine crisis: Nato is at a crossroads. Where does it go from here?

Richard Shirreff
Mary Beard has helped her troll get a job - and a new start in life  

Mary Beard's troll-taming is a lesson for us all

Katy Guest
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution