Why are airlines so fussy over our electronic devices? The awful truth revealed!


passenger using cell phone

Have you ever wondered why airlines give you such a hard time when using your cell phone or other electronic devices?

Finally, an insider breaks down what many of us travelers only wondered about until now!

Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential, gives us the lowdown on why airlines are so hard core when it comes to passengers using their electronic devices.


A poorly shielded notebook computer can emit harmful energy, but the main reasons laptops need to be put away for takeoff and landing is to prevent them from becoming high-speed projectiles in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration, and to help keep the passageways clear during an evacuation.

Your computer is a piece of luggage, and luggage needs to be stowed so it doesn’t kill somebody or get in the way.


It’s about the headphones.  During takeoffs and landings, you need to be able to hear and follow instructions if there’s an emergency.  That’s hard to do if you’ve got your MP3 player cranked to 11.


Can cellular communications really interfere with cockpit equipment?  The answer is potentially yes.

Aircraft electronics are designed and shielded with interference in mind.  This should mitigate any ill effects, and to date there are no proven cases where a phone has adversely affected the outcome of a flight.  But you never know.  If the plane’s shielding is old or faulty, for example, there’s a greater potential for trouble.

Even if not actively engaged with a call, a cell phone’s power-on mode dispatches bursts of potentially harmful energy.  For this reason, they must be placed in the proverbial off position prior to taxiing.

Mr. Smith says, as a pilot, he has never witnessed cellphone interference but he can’t be 100% sure as an aircraft is enormous and complex so there could be any number of issues which may interfere with the operation of an aircraft.

Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential says there are a number of reasons why airlines limit our electronic device usage

Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential says there are a number of reasons why airlines limit our electronic device usage

One popular theory holds that the cell phone ban was originally enacted not out of safety concerns at all, but at the behest of wireless providers who stand to lose millions of dollars because calls made from aloft are untraceable and users cannot be charged.  Not quite, but there’s a nugget of truth in there.

In America the existing restrictions were laid out in 1991 by the FCC, not the FAA, and calls placed from fast-flying aircraft tend to jump from antenna tower to antenna tower, (assuming the plane is low enough to pick up a signal at all; for most of a flight you are well out of cellular range).  But this is separate from, and does not negate, the interference issues.

Mr. Smith has a ‘questions and answers’ section within his website which address flight issues.

About Author

Tracee Tuesday

Tracee Tuesday is a travel writer, radio and television personality.Her mission is to inspire, inform and equip you with information necessary to experience the most amazing trips that are fun, affordable and culturally broadening.In her pastime, Tracee enjoys: white water rafting, astrobiology, zoology, traveling, music, horseback riding, and is an all-out foodie.