Is the Ability to Use Our Phones “Gate to Gate” a Good Thing?

If you took a plane at some point during the recent holiday season, chances are you noticed the flight attendant’s intercom announcement included the allowance of continued Portable Electronic Device (PED) usage, as long as it remained in airplane mode. So what does that change entail?

Back in the day, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) claimed that phones needed to be turned off during takeoff and landing because radio signals from the devices could interfere with an aircraft’s communications, navigation, and other systems and therefore cause a safety issue.  After an aviation expert study late last year, they discovered that airplanes could in fact handle the radio frequencies from PED’s without interruption. FAA deemed electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, and e-readers allowed for use from “gate to gate,” with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) following suite a month later. 

Phone calls are still prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but they also have a proposal to allow that going forward. Once an airline carrier proves their compliance to the FAA, they can begin participating. 

Delta Airlines and JetBlue were the first two airlines to file after the ruling was approved, but a list of additional domestic airlines that are participating can be found here.

Is this new change a good thing? The most noticeable change is that the FAA and airlines are partnering to try to create less of a life disruption when traveling via plane. It does make a difference, especially with the notoriety of trying to get through airport security without a hiccup. Those that need to stay connected for work can now do so with ease, and airline attendants no longer need to police passengers about powering down their phones. It could be argued that another positive aspect of the change is the ability to be reached in case of emergency, but unless action can be taken remotely, nothing can really be done until landing. In the case of Justine Sacco, you could potentially eliminate eleven hours of unknown social media backlash. Of course, that’s assuming the flight provides WiFi, and even then, it needs to be purchased.

What could be seen as a negative side effect, though, is that planes were known as one of few places where someone could not be reached, like underground subways. But that’s changing for both modes of transportation, now. This is a loss of one of the few times when people could get offline; and this fuels the tech addiction that we face daily of needing to be reachable at all times. It adds one more dimension of a phone being almost attached to our fingertips.

Do you think the new policy is a positive change? Share your opinions in the comments below:

Regardless of whether or not this new change of policy is ultimately for the better overall, it is clear that the FAA’s main concern is safety and not making our lives harder, which is comforting news. As technology advances and becomes a more constant of our daily lives, the world around us will continue to mold to fit those needs. And that’s something you can learn more about during SMW NYC, with events like 2020 Vision: Your Life 20 Years From Now and The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power.

Stephanie Carino has spent over the past 10 years working in the city in the Fashion, Food and Event industries. She currently works in the PR Department at leading Technology and Business Book Publisher, Apress. On the side, she also writes event coverage and reviews for, Socially Superlative, a NYC-based event website, covering predominantly food, travel and entertainment stories. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Diana Walker/TIME