- British Airways first European airline to allow phone usage after taxiing
- FAA in U.S. considering similar easing of restrictions
- So far no clear evidence electronics linked to aviation accidents
Just how impatient have air travelers become and how important is it for airlines to don the mink glove and gently stroke the backs of their necks every time they start getting fidgety?
For British Airways, apparently important enough to be the first European airline to relax restrictions on using cell phones and other electronic devices while planes are taxiing after landing.
The airline has announced that starting July 1, passengers will be able to text, make phone calls, check emails and play with other electronic devices as soon as arriving aircraft land and taxi off the runway.
For passengers in Europe, the move means no more having to wait until the aircraft arrives at the terminal before shrieking "Yeah, I'm at the airport, we just landed!" into their phones.
As anyone who flies knows, many passengers ignore the rules on cell phone use after arrival and use their electronics anyway.
But the new BA policy officially allows the practice. The policy will apply to BA flights around the world, not just the United Kingdom and Europe.
"Customers will no longer have the frustration of having to wait until their plane has arrived at the terminal building before being able to use their mobile phones and other hand held electronic devices," an empathetic airline spokesperson says.
"Now they'll have that extra time to phone ahead for that important business meeting, check their emails or make sure someone is there to meet them at the airport."
Still short of full phone privileges
The news will no doubt come as welcome relief to all those troublemakers who stand up and start rummaging through the overhead bin as soon as the wheels scrape tarmac.
The new policy might represent a minor breakthrough in the ongoing "Why can't I use my phone on the plane?" global whinge-fest, but it still doesn't give passengers what they really want -- in-flight, in-your-face, full-on airborne phone privileges.
Debate continues over electronic gadgets on planes.
In the United States, using personal electronic devices below 10,000 feet is banned on most airlines.
While many airlines now offer Wi-Fi access via portable electronic devices, cellular voice and data services on U.S. airlines fall under a federal government ban.
There hasn't been any conclusive proof that devices such as phones and e-readers are a danger.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it doesn't know of any aviation accidents linked to interference from personal electronic devices, and it released a report this week saying it would consider easing restrictions on the use of electronic devices in flights.
Its conclusions are due in September.
In 2012, Virgin Atlantic became the first British airline to permit calls on some flights.
In-flight phone service seems inevitable.
After that, if the airlines could just figure out a way to come around and clear away our empty food trays less than an hour after we're done eating, we might be able to relax.