Leaving devices on during flight

a laptop with a blue light on the screen

a laptop and tablet on a bedToday on CNN.com Katia Hetter writes about passengers who disregard flight attendant instructions and leave devices on during flight.

While more than 90% agree those flight attendant directions to turn off devices are clear, 59% say they always turn their devices completely off and 21% say they switch their devices to “airplane mode.” Some 5% say they sometimes completely shut down their devices.

As you can see from the image I carry many devices: laptop, iPad, Coby Kyros android tablet, portable 4G hotspot, and a WIFI router and I also have a GPS and my phone used to take the picture.  On any given flight I have at least one device on when forbidden.  I do, however, make sure I put my devices away.  Don’t be that person flaunting your devices when the flight attendant comes by.  He or she had no input on the rule but is required by the FAA to enforce it or incur fines.  Don’t argue with the FA that the device doesn’t interfere with navigation equipment.  Just put it away!

If you leave your cell phone on (and not in airplane mode) make sure it is silent.  Nothing is more of a dead give-away that your device is on than “Thrift Shop” blaring from your seat.  And at altitude put your device in airplane mode or you will drain the battery searching for signal.  If you want to use Gogo pretty much every phone I’ve had allows you to put the phone in airplane mode and then turn on WIFI.


  1. The “rules” are stupid. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of radio frequency energy (RF) and propagation knows the amount of signal emanating from portable devices is essentially nil. In addition, all electronic subsystems in avionics undergo a very rigorous RFI and EMI immunity verification before they even begin the FAA certification process. None of the systems on board a commercial airplane can be affected by cell phones in the hands of passengers. In fact, the radio transmissions from other airplanes in the airport are FAR more powerful than all the cellphones combined at once. The idea that cell phones can disturb on board electronics is absurd.

    But then again, there are dolts who will sit at a stuck red light for an hour in the middle of the night waiting for it to change rather than break a “rule”.

    Thinking and making reasonable judgement calls requires effort, which is why there are so many sheeple in the world.

    1. And this is why there are discussions on changing the rules. It’s a process and takes time, but the stats from CNN indicate that plenty of people leave devices on and flights aren’t crashing.

  2. From my understanding, the rules remain in place because the take off and landing times are the most risky and in the event of an emergency its better if people aren’t cluttered with laptops and stuff.

    That said, I think the rules a stupid and I too break them politely.

    I have some Bose noise cancelling headphones that actually help me hear more on the flight, I wear them regardless of if I am listening to something through them or not. However, flight attendants have often insisted I take them off during take-off and landing which does rather annoy me, but I do it, for at least the time they are looking at me.

    1. Yes, they want us focuses which is why items must be stowed and seat backs must be upright, but people are allowed to read books.

  3. I turn mine OFF. If I need to use something, typically a camera while taxing, I ask permission – and it is almost always granted. I polite request is usually enough – and I never, ever argue with the response.

  4. I am more worried about getting hit with a copy of War and Peace than a Kindle!

    But on a serious note, one reason not to leave your cell phone on (and not on airplane mode) during the flight is that drains the battery badly. Your phone will constantly search for service.

    1. I totally understand if you aren’t using the phone to power it off, but i usually listen to stuff on mine

  5. If you don’t like the rules, then work to change them or don’t fly. Your avoidance of rudeness is a weirdly phrased priority: there is no higher form of rudeness than putting yourself ahead of everyone else.
    And please don’t sit next to me. I have no problem (or guilty conscience) in pushing the flight attendant call button to get children like you to behave.

    1. I agree and I do work to change the rules, but since I don’t work at the FAA I do not have much power to change the rules.
      Let’s extrapolate your point out. I’d argue speeding is much more dangerous than having a cell phone powered on during taxi. Do you speed? Do you report everyone who speeds? If you speed then I think you should change the laws or get off the road so I don’t encounter you in an accident. In reality it’s hard to change the rules, would delay flights more if everyone meticulously went through their bag and made sure their travel alarm clock was powered off, and studies have proven there is little interference. The key is that flight attendants want to know I am not distracted during critical parts of the flight so I’m not distracted. My electronics are put away. I follow flight attendant instructions, I keep my tray table up, and I don’t recline my seat. You would have no way of knowing my electronic devices are on and it’s passive/aggressive to hit the call button without talking to me like a human first.

  6. The only known possible interfere from a device is cellphone during an instrument landing.

  7. I agree! Why be a jerk?

    Twenty-six incidents affected flight controls, while 17 affected navigation systems and 15 affected communication systems. Thirteen, says ABC, produced “engine indications” and other warnings. According to respondents, activated electronic devices caused GPS and altitude-control readings to read incorrectly and change rapidly.

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