14

Last week I've flown three times through Aerolíneas Argentinas, both in an Airbus A340-300 and in a Boeing 737-800.

In both, the card with the safety instructions explicitly said that cameras and smartphones could be used during every stage of the flight - always in flight mode, of course. It also said that old phones that lacked flight mode capability couldn't be used.

But, during all announcements, the crew insisted they should be turned off for take off.

Why did they say that? Why's that difference?

I wish I had taken a photo of the safety card, but it was really there.

  • 7
    You should probably check how many people actually know how to put their phone in flight mode. – Karlson May 19 '15 at 13:35
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    Difference in training procedures to safety documentation: it is not exactly unknown. On BA the video on some aircraft tells you to turn off your phone and then the crew have to apologise to say it is no longer necessary to do that. – Calchas May 19 '15 at 13:41
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    If the crew says they must be turned off, they must be turned off. They are not allowed, despite what the safety card says, because the crew says otherwise. – cpast May 19 '15 at 15:46
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    @Calchas That's a rather different situation because giving the flight crew new instruction is much faster than producing new videos and printing new safety cards. The question is why an airline would have done the opposite: printed new safety cards but not updated the crew instructions. – David Richerby May 19 '15 at 18:46
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    @DavidRicherby Printing may well be faster than re-training. – Calchas May 19 '15 at 18:52
34

The ability to leave phones and small electronics turned on is a relatively new privilege with many airlines. And some flight crews still ask travelers to turn them off during take off and landing.

During the flight, the captain and the crew under his command are the final authority and can impose additional safety restrictions if they feel them warranted (same as when they ask you to fasten your seatbelt or return to your seat).

Just because the safety card says you can use them, doesn't give you the right to use them, that permission still lies with the crew.

  • This is true, it will take long time for safety demonstration videos/announcements to be updated.. airlines got many different types of planes and there are more than on configuration of each type, each one of those has a different safety instructions.. it is a hell of job to change that. Plus, crews are used to say this for two decades so it will be a while before they get it.. – Nean Der Thal May 19 '15 at 14:44
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    @IKeelYou The difficulty of updating videos and safety cards is irrelevant: that had already been done on this flight. – David Richerby May 19 '15 at 18:47
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    It should also be noted that some flights attendant unions disagree with the official rules, and have even sued over them (and lost). – Matthew Herbst May 19 '15 at 20:12
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    What i do in this case.. Put my phone into flight mode, and pretend that its off. I hate being told to turn my phone off, just because some rules say so. Technically the phone is never off, so that's that. Additionally, now there are wearable watches, i'd like to see them keep track of that. – code ninja May 20 '15 at 15:09
8

I've heard from informal publications and from crewmembers that there are two reasons. First, the crew needs everyone's undivided attention during takeoff/landing, should things go suddenly wrong. Second, some have said it causes interference.

Based on the first answer, I've often wondered why it's okay to read a book but it's not okay to read from a tablet or computer. I think airline companies or crews just think it's a slippery slope and would rather ban them entirely than make the rules more complicated.

UPDATE:

Many (US) airlines now allow tablets to be used during takeoff/landing provided they are small enough (e.g. less than a certain weight). Check with a specific airline for details.

UPDATE (7 January 2017):

It really depends on the airline and applicable law. The "Mobile phones on aircraft" Wikipedia article has an excellent overview of this. For those of us in the USA, this excerpt from that article may be helpful:

Contrary to popular misconception, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not actually prohibit the use of personal electronic devices (including cell phones) on aircraft. Paragraph (b)(5) of 14 CFR 91.21 leaves it up to the airlines to determine if devices can be used in flight, allowing use of "Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.

With more people having smartphones, tablets, and the like, and with the increasing popularity of WiFi on airplanes, there appears to be more pressure to allow such devices on aircraft throughout the flight. Still, it appears to be up to the airline to set and enforce their own rules.

  • 1
    Depends on the airline. BA now says "we ask you to remove your headphones" and pay attention to the safety briefing---but it is not an instruction. – Calchas May 19 '15 at 18:53
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    Reading from a computer poses a safety risk--if things go bad that computer becomes a substantial projectile in the cabin. All objects of that size are required to be stowed for takeoff and landing. I think the issue with tablets is more a matter of not wanting to draw a line--my Kindle would be no more hazardous than a book. – Loren Pechtel May 19 '15 at 20:18
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    @LorenPechtel i totally agree. I've heard the projectile argument before and agree with it. – jvriesem May 19 '15 at 21:06
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    @Josef you do, they can change between aircraft types and operators, as well as over time. Plus repetition helps... and of course the crew and other passengers don't know you. – jwenting May 20 '15 at 9:01
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    I don't know what security instructions they give you, but all I ever hear is the usual "use your seatbelt like this", "masks will fall down blah blah use your mask before helping children" "exits are there, there and there" "this is a swim-west, pull here to inflate, blow in here to inflate manually, only inflate after leaving" and "switch your devices to airplane mode". Nothing except the position of the exits differs between planes and they are not that hard to figure out. Luckily, no one ever bothered me when I was reading/listening to music during the safety instructions. – Josef May 20 '15 at 14:07
2

People sometimes get things wrong. Rules sometimes exist which have no purpose, either because they used to be valid, or because they are a 'cargo cult', or because it is seen as desirable to enforce some form of authority in certain situations, and it doesn't matter what form that authority takes.

People also sometimes find spurious justifications for rules which they don't fully understand or which have no justification. There is a strong resistance in certain cultures to saying 'We know that that rule is nonsense, however, we are going to insist on it anyway.' People are more likely to follow a rule with a made-up justification than a rule which is openly acknowledged to be pointless.

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