Blame the continuing ban on in-flight electronics on Virgin America

When I received an email from Jetblue a week ago (Subject line: Take off without shutting off!), I thought the airline was improperly taking credit where none whatsoever was properly due:

Jetblue

“We’ll leave you to your own devices.” — How generous, wonderful, and benevolent of you, Jetblue, to allow passengers to do precisely what the FAA had just said they could do hardly one week before.

But then I saw an article in WIRED (Title: A Handy List of Airlines That Have Lifted the Ban on Gadgets) and realized Jetblue may have something to brag about, after all. Here’s what that list looks like as of the time of this writing:

Airline list

In other words, Jetblue is one of only six airlines that could have sent such an email.

Even after glancing at that list, I imagine six sounds like a low number, so be sure to note that many of those Xs seem to inexplicably denote airlines that have not actually taken this step.

Perhaps more damning to the airline industry, based on this definitive survey published by Wikpedia (TItle: List of airlines of the United States), the above list represents but a small fraction of carriers who could have conceivably lifted the ban on electronics during takeoff and landing.

So what’s taking them so long?

In its initial press release (Title: FAA to Allow Airlines to Expand Use of Personal Electronics), the FAA noted:

Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

By the end of the year? Seriously? How fucking complicated could approval possibly be? The FAA already flew a plane full of Kindles with no incident, so why is it still asking individual airlines to prove PEDs* are safe for use on their planes? They’re safe.

*According to the FAA, this stands for Personal Electronic Devices. Lance Armstrong had a real problem with screentime.

Seems to me, implementation should be as easy as a Jetblue-style email, and simply discontinuing on-board admonitions against PED use. In other words, the change could have gone into effect beginning October 31, right when the FAA made its big announcement. In case you need proof, six airlines have already done it. There must be some reason why, two weeks later, only those six have taken the leap.*

*Taking leaps is not actually something I want airlines to be in the business of doing.

I’ve thought long and hard about what come be taking all this time, and the only explanation for the delay I can come up with is that airlines first must update their in-flight safety videos — and those can take a significant amount of time and effort to produce. Think about how much went into the viral Virgin America video, just to have the whole thing rendered obsolete by an FAA announcement precisely two short days after it was released on October 29:

You may note that Virgin America is nowhere to be found on WIRED’s list. That’s no accident: it just wouldn’t do to go through that whole song and dance just to mislead customers with inaccurate lyrics like these:

Turn your electrical devices off as fast as you can.

(And whatever you do.)

Don’t make me ask you again.

. . .

Personal electronic devices should be turn off and properly stowed during taxi, take-off and landing. Laptops should be placed inside carry-ons or under the seat, not in seat back pockets or loose on the cushion next to you. Nice try!

Your inflight team or the sign above will determine when electronics may or may not be used during flight.

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