The largest union representing flight attendants in the U.S. brought the Federal Aviation Administration to court last week, urging the administration to reverse its decision from last year to permit passengers on commercial airlines to use mobile devices during takeoff and landing, the Associated Press reported today.
The Association of Flight Attendants argued on Friday that mobile devices have been distracting passengers while they should be paying attention to flight attendants’ safety demonstrations prior to takeoff. They also claim mobile devices could become a safety hazard in the hands of passengers, presumably posing the risk that they could fly out of their hands and injure others on the plane, the AP reported.
The flight attendants’ union lawyers are citing the Administrative Procedure Act, which was enacted to ensure that government agencies involve input from those affected by any change in policy or procedure prior to enacting it, according to the report.
However, none of these arguments seems to be making much headway in court. The AP reported that the safety case was refuted by a government lawyer who pointed out that books – these giant collections of paper containing text and images that people used to bring on airplanes before smartphones or tablets were invented – are just as dangerous in the hands of passengers during takeoff and landing. And it turns out that the flight attendants union actually responded to the FAA’s request for public comment last year.
The AP report doesn't mention how the court responded to the claim about distraction from safety demonstrations, but I looked it up and it turns out you can Google "how to put on a seat belt." And it’s not like nobody ignored flight attendants before cellphones were introduced to the masses.
So it looks pretty unlikely that we’ll be once again subjected to the vigilant eyes of flight attendants looking for cellphones prior to takeoff. Those of us who've ended up kicking ourselves upon takeoff for forgetting to bring that book we've been meaning to read can breathe a sigh of relief.