DC court rejects challenge to use of cellphones during take-off and landing

Ruling in a case brought by the nation’s largest flight attendant union, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled on Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration acted within its authority when it decided, in 2013, to allow airline passengers to use cellphone and other electronics during takeoffs and landings.

The Association of Flight Attendants argued that electronic devices could distract passengers from safety announcements and be used as dangerous projectiles, and that the FAA had revised a regulation without going through required notice-and-comment procedures.

The court rejected both parts of the challenge.

On the record before us, it is clear that [the FAA notice] does not purport to amend any FAA regulation, and it does not otherwise carry the force of law. FAA regulations prohibit the use of most [personal electronic devices] during flight unless an airline determines that they will not interfere with the aircraft’s navigation or communications. 14 C.F.R. § 121.306. The FAA has long advised that [personal electronic devices] use be allowed during the main portion of flights, but barred during takeoff and landing. Although the agency’s recommendations are nonbinding, most airlines followed this approach. In 2012, the FAA reconsidered its stance. The agency created a streamlined procedure for airlines to use to determine whether expanded [personal electronic devices] use poses a safety risk. Although the FAA’s guidance on [personal electronic devices] remained nonbinding, many airlines have adopted new procedures that permit passengers to use [personal electronic devices] for the entire duration of their flights.

The DC Circuit’s opinion is here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *