FAA says you can use electronic devices on planes: What you need to know

Guests try out the wireless connection t

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The FAA announced a change to flight safety rules that would allow passengers to use their electronic devices on planes from gate to gate. The rules still would prohibit making calls or using the Internet below 10,000 feet. (In this file photo, guests try out the wireless connection to the Internet on their laptops onboard US aerospace giant Boeing's latest aircraft 'Connexion', which allows passengers to connect on the Internet wireless while flying.)

Government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate.

The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music.

The Federal Aviation Administration says airlines can allow passengers to use the devices during takeoffs and landings on planes that meet certain criteria for protecting aircraft systems from electronic interference.

Most new airliners are expected to meet the criteria, but changes won't happen immediately. Timing will depend upon the airline.

Cellphone calls will still be prohibited.

What you should know about the changes

  • The rollout of changes to portable electronic device (PED) policies will vary by airline. You can check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED, but don't expect the change to happen right away.
  • Current PED policies remain in effect for now. An airline has to complete a safety assessment to get FAA approval before it can change its policy.
  • You still won't be able to use your cell phone to make calls.
  • All devices will have to be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. 
  • You can use WiFi if available and the airline allows it to access the Internet for surfing, emailing and downloading data.
  • Short-range Bluetooth accessories like wireless keyboards are also OK.
  • Heavier devices (like laptops) will still have to be stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.
  • In some cases, you may still be asked to turn off your device for safety reasons. The FAA says some landing systems may not be proven "PED tolerant" for low visibility, for instance.

With contributions by Joan Lowy/AP and KPCC staff

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