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Some fliers admit leaving devices on in flight

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 10:26 AM EDT, Sat May 11, 2013
Many passengers admit they don't always understand when they can use iPads, smartphones or other devices when they fly.
Many passengers admit they don't always understand when they can use iPads, smartphones or other devices when they fly.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nearly one-third of fliers forget to turn off their portable electronic devices, a study says
  • Report says 59% say they always turn their devices completely off
  • Federal Aviation Administration is studying possible changes to rules on electronics

(CNN) -- Do you really turn off your smartphone, tablet or computer before takeoff and landing?

Despite flight attendants telling passengers to power off, some people admit they don't always shut down their devices.

Nearly one-third of passengers say they have accidentally forgotten to turn off their smartphones and other electronic devices in flight, according to this week's joint study by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and Consumer Electronics Association.

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.

No more off switch during take-off?

Many travelers also admit they don't actually understand when they can use those devices. More than 40% wrongly believe they can use devices while taxiing to the runway, more than 30% in the air before reaching 10,000 feet and 26% on a flight's final descent.

Almost every adult passenger who travels with portable electronic devices carried at least one such device on board, and nearly two-thirds used them in flight, the study found.

Debate continues over electronic gadgets on planes

"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 the Consumer Electronics Association, in a statement. "Understanding the attitudes and behaviors of passengers that are using electronic devices while traveling will help the FAA make informed decisions."

The study results were shared with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to an Airline Passenger Experience Association website posting. An FAA representative declined to comment on the study results.

Hints of how the FAA might change the current rules regarding electronics in the air may come as soon as this summer. The FAA set up a working group in August to study the issue of portable electronics on flights and make suggestions for changes.

"The Aviation Rulemaking Committee continues to have regular meetings and teleconferences," said an FAA representative via e-mail. "We expect their report and recommendations shortly after the group finishes its work at the end of July."

Both the FAA and Federal Communications Commission regulate electronics in the air.

The FCC forbids the use of mobile phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on aircraft in flight because of "potential interference to wireless networks on the ground." The FAA supports that in-flight restriction but does allow the use of cell phones while the plane is on the ground, at the gate or waiting for a gate -- but not when the aircraft is taxiing for takeoff.

The FAA bans the use of wireless devices during flight because of "potential interference to the aircraft's navigation and communication systems." The FAA allows use of some non-transmitting electronic devices outside of critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing. During those noncritical phases of flight, the airlines set their own policies regarding passenger use of non-transmitting electronic devices.

What do you think of the current restrictions on electronic devices on planes? Please share in the comments below.

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