So I’m sitting here reading Gizmodo’s article about How To Fix the Airlines’ Stupid Portable Gadget Rules and my response turned a bit longer then I’d thought, so I decided to turn it into a blog post. Feel free to read the original article for context.
As it turns out, you’ve completely misunderstood the point of turning gadgets off. Don’t feel bad, even the airlines get confused about this one.
Once upon a time the law made sense, as portable electronics started to appear it wasn’t an unreasonable fear that said electronics might interfere with the aircraft, and especially with home-made, modified or damaged transmitters, it’s not impossible.
However, consider this: If your portable electronics were a threat to airliner operation or safety, do you honestly think you’d be allowed to bring them onboard even if you crossed your heart and promised you wouldn’t cause everyone to die?
If this was a real threat to safety, why don’t you have to put your electronics in baggies while going through security — That would make as much sense as having to put liquids in their magical anti-explosion zip-top bags. Why haven’t The Terrorists put together a plan to bring 72 mobile phones on a plane all at once and caused a crash? This would be a win-win for any terrorist, lots of people dead PLUS one phone for each of their virgins!
The whole “turn it off” has almost nothing to do with RF interference of electronics onboard or operational safety of the aircraft itself, but rather, it’s simply to get passengers doing what they’re actually supposed to be doing during time and safety critical moments of the flight.
In the event of some sort of an emergency, passengers need to be just a bit more aware then your average 13 year old playing the final level of his favourite game on whatever passes for a gameboy these days, take-offs and landings happen to be the most dangerous parts of a flight, superseded only by the fat guy in the window seat who is still polishing off the leftovers of his chili (with extra beans, because why wouldn’t he?) from the front of his shirt.
Boarding is annoying enough with airlines boarding back-to-front or front-to-back rather then window-to-isle; the last thing I need when getting to my window seat is some asshole in the aisle seat who is too busy in Excel calculating how much it costs everyone on the plane and the airline for those extra 15-45 seconds it takes him to pick up his laptop, power adapter, laptop bag, external battery, wireless mouse and transmitter, USB memory stick, headphones, and the 14 sheets of paper he’s balancing so that I can clear the aisle and not look like the idiot blocking everyone behind me.
It’s hard enough getting this same business asshole to put his laptop away before landing, you let him keep tweaking his powerpoint presentation right through the landing and he’s going to be blocking everyone else picking up the power cord he dropped trying to put away his laptop after the doors were disarmed rather then getting off the plane (not to be confused with getting the plane off)
Since the law is already in place limiting electronics it’s just easier to keep using it to achieve the same result then to have the law updated to reflect the actual modern concerns.
So I hate to say it, but the flight attendant was right about turning your iPhone off, hit standby, put it in your pocket and we can all get off the ground that much sooner. Put the Kindle away, I don’t need a Kindle from three rows away smacking me in the head during turbulence. Put the laptop away, if your time was actually *that* valuable you wouldn’t be flying commercial anyway. There is plenty of time in the air for all of that, but if you and everyone else can play the game by the rules, put your toys away when told, and pee before putting on your snowsuit, everyone will have a much better flight.