THROWBACK THURSDAY: When you could finally use your phone on a plane

The date was Halloween, 2013 when we all finally got some good news about flying. According to my article from back then, that’s when the FAA issued new rules about using portable electronic devices on planes. Before that date, you might remember that it was flat out illegal to use anything electronic on a plane. This included e-readers with no radios, phones in airplane mode, walkie-talkies, Tamagotchis (look it up if you’re too young), and more or less anything with a plug or an indicator light.

Of course we all agreed during that time that the ban was silly and I am sure that if it were actually true that phone signals disrupted plane navigation no one would have gotten anywhere. Why? Because more or less everyone who could possibly get away with it actually ignored the rule anyway.

Now, I’m glad you can’t make actual calls on planes, but I’m certainly glad I can use my electronic stuff while I’m traveling. On a recent trip where the door-to-door time was about 20.5 hours, I was able to carry enough stuff to keep myself entertained on my tablet and my only worry was keeping it charged. I remember similar flights in my youth where I spent long stretches counting the threads on the seat cover in front of me. Trust me, even bad movies are an upgrade after that.

The legacy of the previous FCC commissioners may still be in doubt, with net neutrality in jeopardy and the whole over-the-air repack still ahead of us, but I’ll always fondly remember those Obama-era commissioners for finally letting me use my Kindle on a plane.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.