Do I really need to turn off my electronic devices?

November 4, 2010 | By | Comments (1)

For as long as there have been airplanes and electronic gadgets, there has raged a debate about whether or not passengers REALLY have to turn off their devices. Many of us will probably remember the scene in The West Wing when Toby Ziegler argues about this very issue:

Flight Attendant: Sir, I'm going to have to ask that you turn off your cellular phone.

Toby: We're flying in a Lockheed Eagle Series L-1011. Came off the line twenty months ago. Carries a Sim-5 transponder tracking system. And you're telling me I can still flummox this thing with something I bought at Radio Shack?

- Wikiquote

I read recently that the electronic device ban is largely a United States rule (I think it was in the Wall Street Journal, but I can't find the original article). A Google search revealed that in 2007 the European Union lifted the ban on mobile devices in airplanes (I'd love to hear from anyone in Europe who can confirm this fact). And one of my favorite shows, Mythbusters, proved that cellphones couldn't, as Toby suggested, "flummox" an airplane's systems.

I don't know if it's because I've been traveling more, or because I'm carrying more electronics with me, but I've been thinking about this a lot.

After receiving some feedback from Manic Mommies listeners on the topic, I understand why airlines don't want me talking on the phone or listening to music while the flight staff is trying to convey important flight information. I'm also perfectly happy not to be sitting next to someone who is chatting on their mobile phone. But why can the lady sitting in the next row read her book, while I sit twiddling my thumbs because I had to turn off my Kindle or my iPad?

That's not to say we haven't made progress. Case in point, I'm writing this post on my laptop as I fly over Rochester, New York on my way to Detroit, thanks to gogo inflight wireless available on my flight.

What do you think? Is it better to have a zero tolerance policy on electronic devices, or should the FAA start relaxing the rules to