FAA's decision on mobile devices during flights leaves winners, losers for in-flight Wi-Fi

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday that airline passengers will be able to use mobile devices placed in "airplane mode" during all phases of flights, including takeoff and landings. The FAA said it was immediately providing guidance to airlines that would let them implement the new rules. Cell phone calls will still be prohibited during flight, but the ruling is a victory for consumer advocates and politicians who have pushed for years for the FAA to change its stance. However, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the ruling will create winners and losers for the in-flight Wi-Fi industry. While Gogo CEO Michael Small told Reuters the decision is "another favorable tailwind" for the company, since people having their devices out more will lead to more usage, Gogo has said its  system is not designed to function below 10,000 feet, largely because it connects via cell towers on the ground. As the Journal noted, that means its airline clients, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, "will still be unable to offer Internet to their passengers during takeoffs and landings." However, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways should be able to let their customers use their devices during takeoffs and landings because their Wi-Fi providers connect to the Internet via satellites. Article (sub. req.)


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