WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Thursday it will allow airlines to expand the use of portable electronic devices in flight to include smartphones, tablets and e-readers, ending a long-standing ban.
"Most commercial airlines can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at a news conference at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C.
"It's safe to read downloaded materials, like e-books, calendars and to play games."
These activities are expected to be permitted during all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing, on the vast majority of U.S. flights, he said.
Inflight cellphone talking is not approved, Huerta said, noting that this continues to be governed by the Federal Communications Commission.
However, passengers will be able to connect with an airline's WiFi network and can use Bluetooth accessories, such as wireless mouse and headphones.
As a practical matter, cellphones should be kept in airline mode during flight, he said. Without this setting, cellphones would continue to search vainly for a signal while aloft, draining batteries.
Huerta said the guidance applies to U.S. airlines throughout their domestic and international routes. The next step is for airlines to submit plans for implementation after testing to make sure aircraft can tolerate this kind of radio interference.
Huerta said he sought updated guidance on the matter, since the current policy was put in place about 50 years ago.