Friday 28 November 2014

Hang on to your iPads as you fasten seatbelts

Published 07/02/2014 | 02:30

IT's about time. The news that one of air travel's daftest rules is to be scrapped will be welcomed by anyone looking for a little comfort on their flights.

From now on, Ryanair passengers will no longer have to hide their iPod from flight attendants on take-off or landing, as they seek to mute out the blaring scratchcard announcements over the plane's tinny loudspeakers.

The rule change has been facilitated by US and European aviation authorities finally admitting that there never was any risk to flight safety from a Gameboy or a Kindle.

Fears that electro-magnetic interference from gadgets could crash planes was always founded on the vaguest of hunches, with no supporting evidence. In recent years, the rule has become a farce as flight attendants walked the aisles checking passenger compliance, while weary passengers hid the device under a jacket until the coast was clear.

For Irish business travellers on short hops, it has had more tangible disadvantages. Because takeoff and landing can last up to 20 minutes each, a large chunk of potential working time has been lost whenever airline attendants warned that your iPad could crash the plane.

For others, the electronics admonitions have caused unnecessary fear.

I once sat beside a child who started to cry because the teenager in the next seat hadn't switched off his iPod as we were descending. She thought the plane might crash. Many adults, guided by outdated airline warnings, have often become similarly nervous.

The new rules still exclude the use of mobile phones for calls, texts and web use. This remains a technically dubious exclusion: there is still no convincing case as to why mobile internet is any threat to airline safety. The position of laptops, even very small, thin ones, remains the same, although for less idiotic reasons.

Left unstowed, laptops are regarded as potential missiles in the event of extreme turbulence. (Of course, so are hardback books, which attract no such ban. But that is a battle for another day.)

Aer Lingus, which retains the archaic electronic device ban, is also expected to change its rules in the coming weeks or months.

Thank God: when that direct flight to San Francisco starts in eight weeks' time, it would be unfortunate if Google and Facebook bosses are warned by Irish attendants that tablet PCs can crash the aircraft.

Irish Independent

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