Passengers on United Airlines can now use portable electronic devices during all phases on the flight, not just above 10,000 feet.
The carrier received the Federal Aviation Administration's approval on Wednesday. It is effective immediately on all of its mainline, domestic flights.
While the airline's customers can use “lightweight, hand-held electronic devices” — including tablets, e-readers, games and smartphones — at all altitudes, the FAA ruling states that these devices must remain in airplane mode during the flight's duration.
This means no phone calls or text messages.
The Chicago-based airline's announcement follows similar news from JetBlue, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.
Last Thursday, the federal agency announced its decision, noting that certain personal electronic devices — or PEDs — would be allowed. Each airline has to present a plan to the FAA for safely implementing the new policies due to variations in fleets and operations.
The FAA requires an airline to prove it can prevent potential radio interference from PEDs that could pose a safety hazard before receiving a stamp of approval.
Laptops and heavier devices still must be stowed away during takeoff and landing to prevent injury in the case that they become loose.
The change in policy only applies to United mainline flights within the United States. That means that United Express flights, which are operated by regional carriers under contract by United, will still have to abide by the old rules of powering off during takeoff and landing.
But, the airline hopes to have “electronics-friendly cabins” on all domestic flights by the end of the year, whether mainline or Express.
There are however some exceptions to the new-found electronic freedom. In some low-visibility circumstances — which the FAA anticipates to be about one percent of flights — passengers may be asked to turn off all devices.