The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is suing the Federal Aviation Administration, saying the agency notice last year that paved the way for fliers to use their devices throughout flights violated federal regulations that require passengers to stow all items during takeoffs and landings.
Justice Department lawyers representing the FAA say the agency’s guidance, which permitted fliers to keep smaller devices in their hands during all phases of flight, doesn’t violate the stowage rule because small devices aren’t governed by it. The two sides argued the case Friday to a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The union argued that the FAA didn't follow the proper procedure to change the rule, and that the new rule violates existing regulation. The FAA, on the other hand, argued that smaller electronics were never covered by the regulations in the first place. "Not every single item carried onto a plane (e.g., a cell phone, a book, a pack of gum) necessarily constitutes an ‘article of baggage’ that must be ‘stowed’ under the seat or in an overhead compartment," FAA lawyers said in a court filing.
The WSJ also quotes the union's lawyer as saying that many fliers have stopped listening to attendants’ emergency announcements since this ban was lifted last October, but I have trouble believing that to be true.
As I recall from my own behavior before the ban, even when I wasn't surreptitiously using my ebook reader, I was still reading something. Reinstating this ban would not actually stop you from reading a book or one of the in flight magazines, so chances are you wouldn't have a greater degree of attention.
It's too soon to say whether the union will win its suit, but I hope it doesn't. But if it does I will probably go back to simply ignoring the rule and continuing to surreptitiously read on my ereader or tablet.
image by Bill Ward's Brickpile