Following the Federal Aviation Authority’s relaxation of rules governing the use of on-board electronics last October. airlines are slowly waking up to reality. Only last week on a four-hour European flight I got the same old nannying, telling me to turn off all devices before takeoff and landing. Now, very gradually, things are beginning to change. Latest airline to ditch the old nanny-plane philosophy is British budget carrier, EasyJet:
The clear instructions from EasyJet leave us all knowing where we stand. Note the emphasis on “flight safe mode”. It has always been perfectly safe to use mobile devices provided airplane mode has been selected. The problem is that it is impossible for flight staff to check every device to make sure, hence the blanket ban. Even in the past there have been many phones in hand luggage that have been left switched on and not in airplane mode. No one checks and, I feel sure, many mobile phone users do not even know how to access airplane mode settings. So, in effect the ban was at best a face-saving operation for airlines. They went through the motions, however ineffective, just to prove they were cautious and protective of passengers.
The new rules are welcome. The relaxation on in-flight Bluetooth is especially useful since up to now I have been unable to use my iPad with a keyboard during flights. What puzzles me, however, is that it is not possible to use Bluetooth with airplane mode switched on. The obvious solution is to disable the network and wifi but leave Bluetooth active. How many passengers will do this? More to the point, how many will know how to do it?
Which brings us back to the crux of the issue: The whole set of precautions against the use of wireless devices on board aircraft is flawed and has probably been unnecessary for years. If phones, iPads and computers are such a risk to flight safety they would be banned absolutely. Security would have confiscated them, switched them all off and placed them in the hold. Since they are not, and since policing by flight staff is impossible, why have we been inconvenienced for so long?