Transport Airlines

Everything You Need to Know About Using Devices on U.S. Airlines

Oct 31, 2013 9:11 am

Skift Take

There will be a ton of passenger confusion about what the new FAA framework on expanded use of portable electronic devices will mean for passengers, especially as it may vary airline to airline. Delta is out front in beginning to communicate these prospective changes to its customers.

— Dennis Schaal

Sponsored by:

Evolving Strategies in Travel Ad Tech and Bookings

The outlook is beginning to take shape on when and how passengers will be able to use portable electronic devices on U.S. airlines.

Will passengers be able to power up their Kindles and iPads during takeoff? What will happen when taxiing from the gate on international flights?

Delta Air Lines, which introduced Wi-Fi on its aircraft seemingly eons ago in 2008, was out front this morning in light of the FAA announcement on expanded use of electronic devices, and published an FAQ on expected portable device rules under the new framework.

While these rules and guidelines apply to Delta flights specifically, they provide a great perspective on how things might play out for passengers on other airlines, as well.

We reprint Delta’s FAQ in full, and you can also read it on Delta.com.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – PORTABLE ELECTRONIC DEVICES
What is a portable electronic device and when can it be used on Delta and Delta Connection aircraft?

A portable electronic device (PED) is any piece of lightweight, electrically or battery-powered equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronic devices functionally capable of communications, data processing and/or utility.

Approved PEDs may be used from gate to gate on flights operating within the U.S. On flights operating outside of the U.S., all PEDs must be turned off and stowed prior to pushback and while the aircraft is under 10,000 feet.

Will customers be able to use portable electronic devices on all Delta flights?

Due to international regulations, expanded PED usage will be allowed only on flights within the 50 United States and does not include U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. PED use on certain portions of international flights originating or terminating in the U.S. is not allowed.

Approved PED Use Overview

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.47.06 AM

* DVD players, laptop computers, and other devices that exceed the size/weight restrictions must be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing.

PED use on the ground and during takeoff and landing should be limited to small, lightweight devices less than 2 lbs. These devices should be of a size that could easily be secured in a seat pocket without exceeding the designed weight capacity of 3 lbs. including all contents of seat pocket (safety card, Sky magazine, airsickness bag) and not impede emergency egress to the aisle.

When can customers begin to use portable electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing?

As early as Nov. 1, 2013 pending FAA approval, all customers traveling on Delta-operated domestic aircraft within the United States may use certain portable electronic devices. Laptops and devices larger than a tablet must be stowed during taxi, takeoff and landing.

Customers traveling on Delta Connection-operated flights will be able to do the same by the end of the year, pending each carrier’s completion carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.

Which devices can customers use during all phases of flight?

Customers may use AM/FM or satellite radios; digital and video cameras; calculators; Delta-installed equipment such as in-flight entertainment systems; DVD players*; e-readers; electric shavers; electronic/digital watches; global positioning system (GPS) receivers; handheld computer games; headphones; laptop computers*; medical devices**; noise reduction headphones; portable media players*; pagers, smartphones and any device with cellular network service must be turned off or in airplane mode; tablets and wireless keyboards or mouse from gate to gate on Delta flights within the U.S.

Customers traveling on Delta Connection-operated flights will be able to do the same by the end of the year, pending each carrier’s completion carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.

* DVD players, laptop computers, and other devices that exceed the size/weight restrictions must be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing.

PED use on the ground and during takeoff and landing should be limited to small, lightweight devices less than 2 lbs. These devices should be of a size that could easily be secured in a seat pocket without exceeding the designed weight capacity of 3 lbs. including all contents of seat pocket (safety card, Sky magazine, airsickness bag) and not impede emergency egress to the aisle.

** Medical devices including the following items may be used during all phases of flight: hearing aids; heart monitors; heart pacemakers and other implanted medical devices; insulin pumps; nebulizers/vaporizers; approved portable oxygen concentrators; approved respirators/ventilators; approved sleep apnea machines.

Which devices cannot be operated at any time on Delta aircraft?

E-cigarettes; personal air purifiers; remote control toys; televisions; transmitters (amateur, citizens band (CB), two-way radios or walkie-talkies; VHF scanner receivers and any device with cellular network service enabled* cannot be used at any time Delta and Delta Connection aircraft.

Customers traveling on Delta Connection-operated flights will be able to do the same by the end of the year, pending each carrier’s completion carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.

* Mobile phones may be used only when the boarding door is open and during taxi in to the gate after landing.

Why are customers not able to use a laptop or large portable devices like DVD players on taxi, takeoff and landing?

Laptops and devices larger than a tablet must be stowed until the aircraft is airborne. Generally speaking, any device that is larger than a tablet may pose a hazard due to the physical size and weight of the device and must be stowed during taxi, takeoff and landing.

PED use on the ground and during takeoff and landing should be limited to small, lightweight devices less than 2 lbs. These devices should be of a size that could easily be secured in a seat pocket without exceeding the designed weight capacity of 3 lbs. including all contents of seat pocket (safety card, Sky magazine, airsickness bag) and not impede emergency egress to the aisle.

Why can customers use cell service upon landing, but not during taxi between the gate and takeoff?

All cellular functions must be turned off using the device’s airplane mode setting after the boarding door has been closed until the aircraft has landed. The use of cellular network services (voice or data) during the flight is not permitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Use of cellular devices prior to takeoff is not allowed per Delta policy so that flight attendants may properly prepare the cabin for departure and conduct safety demonstrations uninterrupted. Cellular devices may be used upon landing as instructed by the cabin crew.

How will a flight attendant determine a PED is in airplane mode?

Prior to departure, flight attendants will make several announcements before closing the boarding door. If customers are observed disobeying the instructions of the flight crew regarding the use of cellular services, it may impact the ability to safely depart the gate. All flight attendant instructions should be followed for the safety of other passengers.

Are customers using PEDs required to wear headsets?

While customers are not required to use headsets for their portable electronic device, passengers using devices that make sound will be encouraged to use a headset so that customers around them are not disturbed in the cabin.

What does this policy mean for devices such as professional cameras and recording devices?

Cameras (digital, film and video) may be used during all phases of flight provided that the devices do not exceed the size/weight restrictions. Devices that exceed size/weight must be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing.

PED use on the ground and during takeoff and landing should be limited to small, lightweight devices less than 2 lbs. These devices should be of a size that could easily be secured in a seat pocket without exceeding the designed weight capacity of 3 lbs. including all contents of seat pocket (safety card, Sky magazine, airsickness bag) and not impede emergency egress to the aisle.

Will customers be able to use satellite-based Wi-Fi on Delta’s international aircraft below 10,000 feet when they are available for customers?

The FAA certified Delta aircraft to enable Wi-Fi system use only upon reaching an altitude above 10,000 feet. Current air-to-ground Wi-Fi systems through Gogo are not optimized for service below 10,000 feet, in part because the system uses cellular antennas optimized for use above 10,000 feet. The plans for Wi-Fi service on Delta’s international aircraft use a satellite-based system that could feasibly be used by passengers below 10,000 feet if the FAA approves the use of these systems in the future.

Why is Delta able to make this change when the industry has not allowed this for years?

FAA regulations regarding the use of PEDs during flight have essentially remained unchanged since the 1960s, which has increasingly become more challenging due to changes in technology and passenger expectations. FAA policy and guidance is in place today that allows an operator to expand its PED use allowance during any phase of flight as long as the proper testing and analysis is conducted.

All Delta aircraft have completed carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. International flights must still operate under the mutually accepted rules from both the point of origin and destination.

Customers traveling on Delta Connection-operated flights will be able to do the same by the end of the year, pending each carrier’s completion carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.

What data does Delta have to ensure that the use of portable electronic devices is safe?

Between January 1, 2010 and October 30, 2012, Delta compiled information on more than 2.3 million individual flights spanning every model of aircraft operated by Delta. During that time, there were only 27 individual suspected incidents of interference with aircraft. Subsequent testing and investigations were not able to verify than any of the incidents were cause by passenger use of portable electronic devices.

Can customers make phone calls, send or receive email or text messages on the ground prior to takeoff?

Customers should ensure cellular service is disabled or placed in airplane mode setting after the boarding door has been closed until the aircraft has landed. The use of cellular network services (voice or data) during the flight is not permitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The use of any voice application, such as a Web-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, in connection with our in-flight Wi-Fi service is prohibited by the Gogo Terms of Service.

What types of things will customers be able to do that they could not do in the past?

Delta has listened to customer feedback about the ability to allow them to use data, information and built-in applications that do not rely on cellular networks. Reading an e-book, pre-loaded portable entertainment or accessing games which do not need connectivity are all allowed with the roll-out of this new customer-friendly policy. More than 800 Delta and Delta Connection aircraft are equipped with in-flight Wi-Fi, which is available above 10,000 feet.

If the FCC changes its policy, will Delta allow voice communications on flights?

No. Delta has years of customer feedback on the impact on the customer experience and voice communications and the overwhelming sentiment is to continue with a policy that would not allow voice communications while in flight.

Will pilots and flight attendants be able to use electronic devices while in flight?

More than 19,000 Delta flight attendants recently began using Windows Phone 8 handheld devices to enable improved on-board purchases. Our more than 11,000 pilots are being equipped with the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, which will be used initially as an electronic flight bag to replace heavy paper-based flight kits containing navigational charts and aircraft operating and reference manuals.

Use of each device is governed by divisional procedures, and neither can be used by crew members for non work-related functions during flight. These devices will be used to perform normal functions of their position while the aircraft is in operation as previously approved by the FAA.

ABOUT WI-FI ON DELTA FLIGHTS

When did Delta begin offering Wi-Fi onboard its aircraft?

Delta announced that it would install Wi-Fi on its aircraft in September of 2008 and formally launched Gogo Inflight Internet service on December 16 that same year.

What is the cost to use Wi-Fi onboard a Delta flight?

Pricing details are available at delta.com/wifi.

Who provides Delta’s inflight Wi-Fi service?

Delta has partnered with Gogo, the world’s leading provider of airborne communications. Gogo helps provide our customers with an industry-leading in-flight Wi-Fi experience. More information is available at delta.com/wifi.

How can customers find out more information about Wi-Fi on board Delta flights?

Delta has information available for customers at delta.com/wifi.

Are there any sites in which Delta allows Wi-Fi access for free?

Delta wants to make it easy for our customers to connect with us at any point in their travel experience so any page on delta.com can be accessed in-flight Wi-Fi for free. Additionally, all of our Fly Delta smartphone applications allow for free connection in-flight Wi-Fi. The Fly Delta app for iPad requires a purchased Wi-Fi session to access internet-based content that is not part of the native app.

When can customers use in-flight Wi-Fi?

Delta passengers can access in-flight Wi-Fi as soon as they’re above 10,000 feet which is the threshold for approved electronic devices.

Does Delta anticipate allowing customers to use in-flight Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet in the future?

The FAA certified Delta aircraft to enable Wi-Fi system use only upon reaching an altitude above 10,000 feet. Current air-to-ground Wi-Fi systems through Gogo are not optimized for service below 10,000 feet, in part because the system uses cellular towers on the ground. The plans for Wi-Fi service on Delta’s international aircraft use a satellite-based system that could feasibly be used by passengers below 10,000 feet if the FAA approves the use of these systems in the future.

Where is Delta’s in-flight Wi-Fi service available?

In-flight Wi-Fi will provide access on selected flights above the continental U.S. and southern Alaska up to as far north as Anchorage, and about 100 miles beyond the United States boarder. Although some current international flights may be Gogo-equipped, Internet access will only be provided while in the in-flight Wi-Fi coverage area.

Delta announced the expansion of Wi-Fi to International aircraft which will be complete by 2015. When the installation of Wi-Fi on Delta’s international fleet is complete, more than 950 aircraft will offer in-flight connectivity for passengers.

Does Delta’s Web site have features to indicate when a flight will have Wi-Fi?

Delta’s website includes an indicator for in-flight amenities such as Wi-Fi within the booking process to provide customers with information on what types of services they can expect when flying with us.

What is the best way to find out if a Delta specific flight will have Wi-Fi onboard?

Delta.com features icons for available amenities and services in-flight during the booking process including if an aircraft is equipped with Wi-Fi. Flight attendants announce when an aircraft is Wi-Fi equipped and passengers will also see visual indications on the plane via seatback cards and overhead placards.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT DELTA PRODUCTS

Where can customers find information about the location of in-flight power?

In-flight Power information is available on delta.com.

Does Delta have plans to increase seating space to accommodate laptops?

Delta does not have plans to change seating configuration to accommodate laptops at this time. Many laptop models continue to get smaller as technology evolves.

Can customers pay more for a seat with more space?

Our SkyMiles Medallion members receive complimentary upgrades to first class when space is available and Economy Comfort seats are available for purchase at the time of reservation through the time customer’s check-in for their flight.

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