Mobiles on planes: Nearly a third of devices left on during takeoff and landing

Should devices be switched off completely, in hibernation, or is 'airplane mode' enough during take off? The answer may soon be decided.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Airlines' loosely-monitored request to switch off electrical devices like smartphones before take-off and landing fails to register with around a third of passengers, according to a new survey.

The joint study released on Thursday by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) found that 30 percent of passengers have accidentally left their smartphones, tablets or laptops on during a flight.

Passengers are also reacting to the request to turn off devices differently, it found. While 59 percent powered down their device, 21 percent switched to 'airplane mode', and five percent said they sometimes turn the device off completely.

The study comes as a special committee formed in January by the Federal Aviation Authority prepares a new set of recommendations for personal electronic devices on airplanes. The committee includes members from American Airlines, Boeing, Thales, Amazon, Garmin and CEA amongst others, and is expected to release its recommendations by July.

The group will attempt to settle whether electronic devices on planes are a safety risk, as well as define what 'airplane mode' should actually mean, according to documents seen by the New York Times earlier this year.

Boeing has investigated several incidents where devices were suspected causes of interference with planes' on-board systems; however, after investigating, it was unable confirm whether there was a direct correlation between the devices and reported airplane anomalies. Still, concerns remain that cell phones could cause interference with aircraft communications systems.

The results of the study were handed to the FAA, according to CEA. "Airline passengers have come to rely on their smartphones, tablets and e-Readers as essential travel companions," said Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at CEA, who is also on the review committee. "Understanding the attitudes and behaviors of passengers that are using electronic devices while traveling will help the FAA make informed decisions."

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