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What’s the Big Deal With Electronics on a Plane?

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

I’ve been flying a bit more often than I used to, (having a long-distance relationship does that to you, you know…) and I’ve been fortunate that most of my flights have gone smoothly. I haven’t had to deal with any unruly passengers yet, but with so many stories about people getting kicked off of flights, I’m worried it may only be a matter of time.

Accroding to the Wall Street Journal, electronic devices are a major reason passengers are getting kicked off of flights more often. But it’s not because they have it; it’s because they cause a big scene when asked to turn them off.

Flight attendants at American reported 1,306 incidents of customer misconduct to their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, in 2011, up slightly from 1,248 in 2010. Most didn’t escalate into confrontations or get reported to law enforcement. The numbers have been going up for three years, with most of the increase related to electronic devices, flight attendants say.

Lots of passengers are skeptical of the danger of leaving devices on—one call or text message or game isn’t going to bring down the plane, they figure. And who hasn’t left on their BlackBerry and lived to tell?

To the airline companies, I say, what’s the big deal? As far as I know, there haven’t been any documented cases that using your electronic device on a plane has caused it to crash. And even the pilots are allowed to use iPads in the cockpit; not specialized, FAA-issued iPads, but regular ones you can buy off the shelves. It’s obviously safe to use your electronic devices on the plane, so why not lift the rule?

But until the rule gets changed or lifted, to my fellow passengers, don’t pick a fight over turning your electronics off. You can live without texting or playing Angry Birds for a little while, right?

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