The FAA answers: Why can't I use my iPad at takeoff?

The iPhone's Airplane Mode setting.

So, this is one of those glass-half-full, glass-half-empty stories. As you may know, the FAA has been considering whether to let people keep their gadgets powered up during an entire flight. The Wall Street Journal reported today that it’s likely to happen as soon as September.

The news brings a smile to Henry Feintuch, who really doesn’t like getting on airplanes right now. “It makes me feel out of control, insignificant, and frustrated and angry, frankly,” he says.

Feintuch runs a New York public relations firm. But with clients all over, he flies two or three times a month.  He says staying plugged in during taxing, takeoffs and landings, could mean salvaging a business meeting with a quick text.

“Tell them the answer is yes," he says. "Or ‘no problem, we’ll go that way.’" But by not being able to communicate that, I’m out of the loop,” he says.

If the FAA adopts the new policy, passengers could see as much as an extra 75 minutes of screen time if they are stuck, say, on the runway at O’Hare or LAX. But even if it’s just 15-20, career counselor Marty Nemko says the extra time is a windfall.

“We all are asked to do more with less. And if we can get our email answered while we are in the plane as opposed to just waiting there for the plane to land, or watching the stupid movie, should we not be celebrating,” says Nemko.

Uh, maybe not. That windfall can also mean extra time for your boss to pester you with more demands. Or to spend on that scintillating spread sheet instead of catching up with Brad and Angie in Vanity Fair.

Jonathan Spira has written a book about information overload and how it can hurt your business. "Even if the FAA allows you to turn it on, don’t," he says. Relax. Enjoy your pre-departure beverage. And just enjoy the time."

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.
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If the FAA finds that it is safe for all electronic devices to be on during take off and landings I am all for it. However I think that the devices should be off during the safety message. I do not what to be stuck behind the know-it-all person who does not listen and can't remember where the emergency exit is located.

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