The Flight Attendants Union Wants You to Put Away Your eReader on Takeoff

For nearly a year now Americans have been able to exercise our god-given right to ignore the safety briefings on airplane flights in favor of playing Angry Birds, but if the flight attendants union wins their court case that could go by the wayside.

The WSJ reported on Friday that the AFA-CWA thinks you’re not paying enough attention during the safety briefings:

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

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Juli Monroe14 October, 2014

    This really makes me wonder what their problem is. When I’ve flown, I rarely see people paying attention to the safety announcements. After you’ve heard them a few times as an adult, you’ve got it. I know how to fasten my seat belt. I always check for the nearest exit on entering. I know how to put on my mask. The only thing I’ve never been sure of is exactly how to get that darned seat cushion for floatation, but listening to the announcements over and over again has never made that clear to me. I, and just about everyone else, reads a magazine, and they know that.

    So what’s the real problem here?

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 October, 2014

      I don’t understand it either.

  2. Common Sense15 October, 2014

    Every time they start the safety announcement, I envision the scene in Tommy Boy with Chris Farley and David Spade.

  3. […] October 2014 the flight attendants union, AFA-CWA, had asked the court to overturn the FAA's new rules which allowed passengers on US flights to keep their mobile devices on during take offs and […]


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