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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Many Air Passengers Never Turn Off Electronics, Survey Finds

Take a guess at how many people actually fail to turn off their gadgets during takeoff and landing of a flight. Ten percent? No, that’s too low. Twenty percent? Still too low.

In a study released on Thursday by two industry groups, the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, as many as 30 percent of all passengers said they had accidentally left a device on during takeoff or landing. About 67 percent said they had never done this, always ensuring that their electronics were turned off. Four percent were unsure.

In another segment of the study, passengers were asked if they turn their devices to “off” when instructed to do so by the pilot. Although 59 percent of passengers said they do fully turn their electronics off, 21 percent said they often simply switch to “airplane mode,” which disables the main radios of a gadget. Five percent sometimes adhere to the rule. And others were either unsure or do not carry electronic devices on a plane.

The device most often left on is the smartphone, the study found.

The Federal Aviation Administration did not respond to a request for comment about the study.

“Airline passengers have come to rely on their smartphones, tablets and e-Readers as essential travel companions,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at the C.E.A., in the study.

Last year, after months of pressure, the F.A.A. said it would begin a review of its policies on electronic devices in all phases of flight. But the agency does not have a time frame for announcing its findings or for possibly changing the rules.

On Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, sat down with Anthony R. Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., who has been nominated to be the next secretary of transportation, to discuss changing the F.A.A’s rule.

Senator McCaskill has been pressing the F.A.A. to reconsider the policy and has threatened to do it legislatively if the agency does not change the rules in a timely manner.

Late last year, Senator McCaskill also sent a letter to Michael P. Huerta, acting administrator of the F.A.A., that said airline customers were “growing increasingly skeptical of prohibitions on the use of many electronic devices during the full duration of a flight.”

John LaBombard, a spokesman for the senator, said in an e-mail on Thursday that her office planned to make the prohibition of gadgets on planes a topic during Mr. Foxx’s upcoming confirmation hearing.

The study published by the A.P.E.A. and C.E.A. found that four out of 10 passengers would like to use their devices during all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing.

As I reported in 2011, travelers are told to turn off their iPads and Kindles for takeoff and landing, yet there is no proof that these devices affect a plane’s avionics. To add to the confusion, the F.A.A. permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though those give off more electronic emissions than tablets.