October 20, 2014

Why flight attendants want our eyes on them and them only



You can drink this latte as long as you don’t read a book.

A year ago, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed passengers to start using portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Hooray! everybody cried. But last Friday, the Association of Flight Attendants sued the FAA for changing this rule. Their objection came in two parts: the FAA did not follow the Administrative Procedure Act and changed the rule too quickly, without taking in public comment; and PEDs, at the very least, distract passengers from paying attention to takeoff and landing announcements, and can, at their worst, whip through the cabin during turbulence and knock somebody out flat.

Amanda Dure, the attorney for the flight attendants union, states: “We are confident in our position that the FAA violated the administrative procedure act in enacting a new national policy that directly conflicts with an existing regulation . . . Essentially we want to set the reset button to the way personal electronic devices were handled prior to October 2013.”

To the relief of passengers, the response to this position has been a shrug. Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals says it’s up to each airline to follow the rule or not. And it is recommended—not strictly, mind—that all devices be in airplane mode throughout the flight. Just to be safe.

Anyway, who pays attention to the announcements during takeoff and landing anymore? Unless you’re Virgin America mesmerizing your passengers with something a little different, then attention will stray. We’re catching up on sleep, or fishing out the sandwich from Mercado San Miguel that will taste better than any of your measly subs, or watching the wing for gremlins, or freaking out over the captain’s earlier announcement, made ever so mildly, about one of the engine’s troubles, or listening to De La Soul on any one of our PEDs, because, stakes being high, we’re kneading dough while making bread like wonder, or reading up on the escapades of a certain dog in the house.

But if worst comes to worst and a PED becomes a dangerous projectile during turbulence, we’ll save the reading for later and just assume the crash position.


Wah-Ming Chang was the managing editor of Melville House.