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Reading devices

Nick Bilton reports that the FAA plans to permit reading devices during takeoff and landing:

According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones.

Any progress would be nice, but this is a weird distinction: “reading devices” are OK, but phones aren’t? The huge-phone/small-tablet markets are converging as we speak. Are 5-inch “phablets” considered phones or reading devices?

Is the Kindle Fire a reading device since it’s named “Kindle”, even though it can do a lot more? Are iPads reading devices? How about an iPad Mini with an LTE radio? I assume iPhones would be prohibited as “cellphones”, but what about iPod Touches?

This silly distinction will only cause problems. Why attempt to confusingly and ineffectively draw that line?

If the distinction is about cellular radios, what about Kindles and iPads with 3G? And if the distinction is to prevent passengers from annoying each other by talking on the phone, does it also prohibit using Skype or FaceTime on a non-“phone” device?1

Why call out the use-case of “reading”, specifically? What about gaming devices? Media players? Can I read on a laptop if I don’t use the tray table? If devices with keyboards aren’t allowed, would a Surface Pro be permitted? Are flight attendants prepared to enforce and keep up with these distinctions?

If you’re using an iPad, must you be reading during taxi, takeoff, and landing instead of watching a movie or playing Super Stickman Golf 2? Am I allowed to listen to Phish in my headphones while I’m reading? If not, are audiobooks or screen-readers allowed, or are we discriminating against the visually impaired?

Would I be permitted to be productive at all, or is only consumption allowed? Could I write? Code? Draw? Compose? Run some reports? Reboot a server? Why specifically make an exception for reading with everything our modern devices can do?

Last year, the agency announced that an industry working group would study the issue. The group, which first met in January, comprises people from various industries, including Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers.

Oh. (Emphasis mine.)

  1. If reducing annoyance is a goal, why not lock the seats and prohibit tuna sandwiches? ↩︎