What? You want me to turn off my book?

As e-readers gain popularity, along with general-purpose tablets that can be used to read books and magazines, more and more travelers are boarding flights without the formerly omnipresent book or magazine. Of course, they're being told to turn off all electronic devices for take-off and landing, which for some nervous travelers is when they most need a little distraction.

The airline magazine in the seatback pocket in front of you may provide some entertainment for a few minutes, but for those who fly more than once a month, it won't hold up. The skymall catalog won't get you very far, either.

Do you bring an e-reader for long flights, but a dead-tree-edition book or magazine or two for the stretch of time below 10,000 feet when you won't be allowed to read on an electronic screen?

Do you think airlines and regulators will eventually bow to pressure and allow passengers to use electronic devices, or at least those without transmitters, throughout the flight? Many electronic devices including music players, e-readers, and laptops can be used in flight, above 10,000 feet in altitude, when put in "airplane mode" or with any cellular or Wi-Fi radios turned off, but all electronic devices (often defined as "anything with an on-off switch" so as to exclude things like wristwatches and pacemakers) must be turned off for take-off and landing.


No matter what time of day my flight is, the stretch between reaching my seat and reaching safe electronics altitude is always spent the same way by me: with my earphones in to cut down the noise, a sleep-mask over my eyes, trying very hard to lose consciousness before we even take off.

For me, the best flights are the ones I don't even remember. The iPad, while an important tool for staving off boredom if sleep eludes me, is my fallback position, not my primary time-filler.

Scott Brim May 11, 2011 at 03:38 pm

First, I don't know of any documented cases where a wifi or even a cellular device has interfered with avionics. There is always at least one phone left turned on for the whole flight, stuffed in a bag up in the overhead bins. So eventually those restrictions will erode away. On the other hand, I like that the airline occasionally makes me turn off all devices and just sit there and breathe and relax. :-)

MHA May 11, 2011 at 03:44 pm

While I agree in theory, Scott, I've also heard how GSM-band cell phones can affect nearby radios or microphones. The audible interference on radios or even in USB headsets makes me willing to buy there's at least a little risk of interference to avionics or other aircraft electronics.

Yeah, when I have my iPhone on in the car, playing music via FM transmitter, and the phone slips to an EDGE signal from 3G, there's definite, audible interference. I've also seen situations where a nearby GSM/EDGE phone cause audible reaction in speakers hooked up to a stereo that was OFF!

Grace May 12, 2011 at 01:02 pm

I just like to stare out the window until I can turn my Nook or podcasts on. I got stuck in an aisle seat the other day so I just had to stare down the aisle mindlessly for 40 minutes.

NYBanker May 14, 2011 at 07:02 am

On every flight, there are dozens of items left on during takeoff, and just not used. This iPad for example, and most (all?) of pax around me who have them. I just fold it up and put it away....not the hard shut down. Same with blackberries for many pax.

The policy doesn't achieve its objective....and I doubt the objective is really even meaningful.