Richard Ruelas: The FAA has approved expanded use portable electronic devices during all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing. Michelle Donati of AAA Arizona is here to detail the changes. Thanks for joining us. AAA, we associate with cars, but AAA also is involved with all types of travel.
Michelle Donati: We are. We are an advocacy organization representing the motoring and the traveling public, so a lot of people equate us with our roadside assistance, and road trips, but we're also a full-service travel agency. So, when the FAA approved this proposal last week, this is something that we've been watching very closely. Because any change in airline regulation or policy does require some attention, especially because we know that we're going to get calls from our consumers, AAA members and nonmembers asking questions about this new policy, and what it means for them.
Richard Ruelas: And I guess, yeah, thinking of it with the interest of the traveling public, I guess the traveling public will decide whether this ends up being a good thing or not, but so far, people seem to be excited about the idea.
Michelle Donati: So far, consumers do tend to be, or travelers are pleased with the idea. You know. A lot of folks in the industry think that this has been a long time coming. These regulations are replacing those put in place in the 60s. And so a lot of people think that, you know, aircraft has evolved since that time over the last 50 years. Technology has evolved. And so, a lot of the sentiment is that it's time for this change to take place as well. As an advocacy organization, AAA's position is that the number one needs to be safety, so if you are going to change a policy, so long as safety is the number one priority, that is the most important thing when it comes to traveling, and especially with air travel.
Richard Ruelas: So, what will be the difference? Meaning, we just won't hear that announcement saying, please turn off your device as we taxi down the runway?
Michelle Donati: That is to be determined. So, the FAA placing or approving this and really now, putting it in the court of airlines to take the next step. So airlines will now have to seek out approval from, from the FAA, individually, before they can implement the policies on their aircraft. So, the policies may vary per aircraft in terms of what may happen, or how the announcement is made, may be put into effect, but there are some -- whether it comes to the personal electronic devices, that will not be allowed, so there will be no voice communication allowed, no text communication allowed. And devices must be used in airplane mode, so, for example, if you are using an iPad, it would need to be in airplane mode, so because there are a number of stipulations with the new policy, AAA is hoping to see TSA coming out with a campaign that can alleviate the consumer confusion.
Richard Ruelas: Because essentially, in airplane mode a cell phone cannot send or receive information. It just works as almost an audio or video device?
Michelle Donati: Correct, so you can watch a downloaded TV show or a movie, if you wanted to, but again, it would need to be in airplane mode, so we want to make sure that consumers know how to do that with their devices, there are so many types out there, so, it's important that consumers are aware of a number of things with this, this policy taking place. And including that it doesn't take place immediately, we could see a few months go by before airlines start allowing the personal electronic devices to be used during all phases of the flight, including takeoff and landing.
Richard Ruelas: And it's airline by airline, not airport by airport. It's not something that Sky Harbor or LAX decides but something that each airline decides?
Michelle Donati: Correct. So, the airlines will individually have to seek approval through the FAA, they will have to go through that approval process, and be granted that approval, and they will be able to implement the policy aboard their aircraft.
Richard Ruelas: And if the FAA has already -- I imagine, just reading stories about this, that there's been tests run where, essentially, they have an iPad going, and the Kindle going. So if the FAA decided this is safe, what do the airlines have to show the FAA that they are doing?
Michelle Donati: Well, the airlines will have to go through a safety application of sorts to gain the FAA's approval. So, the FAA formed a committee that included all phases of the airline industry. So, pilots, crew members, and technology manufacturers, and even passengers in order to arrive at this decision. And so, what airlines will be required to do is seek out their approval, they will have to go through a safety process and a safety screening process, and before they can gain that approval, and then grant that expanded use of those devices to their passengers.
Richard Ruelas: And so retraining essentially the personnel onboard, and I imagine, a bit of the script, what they say, is that FAA given or does each airline come up with its own to the passengers?
Michelle Donati: Again, that's to be determined, there are some things that, that we know that airlines are going to do passengers and as an advocacy organization AAA wants to see passengers put those devices to down and pay attention to crew members when giving safety briefings and instructions, something H. for example.
Richard Ruelas: The whole thing at the beginning.
Michelle Donati: Right, but it's something to pay attention to, each and every time you are aboard an aircraft. So, you know, those things, will still be very important, and it will be rolled into how the airline introduces the policy. And then also, it's important for consumers to know that if a crew member needs you to put away your portable electronic device, they can ask you to do so at any time, so it's important to be a responsible traveler and listen to those instructions when given.
Richard Ruelas: We know the story of Alec Baldwin playing words with friends and getting in trouble with the crew for not putting it away when needed to.
Michelle Donati: We hear a lot of those stories.
Richard Ruelas: Do you see this being something positive going forward that we are able to use this stuff?
Michelle Donati: You know, it's -- at this point, in the beginning, a lot of consumers are showing that they are happy about this change and you know, as an advocacy organization, our priority is safety for travelers. So, as long as safety is that priority, and then, you know, as an advocacy organization, as a full service travel agency, AAA is ok with the change.
Richard Ruelas: And I guess this shows sort of the power of the traveling public. Because the airlines, I imagine, flight attendants were not asking for this change. It must have come from the traveling public that this was created?
Michelle Donati: You know, it's come from a variety of sources, it's been a topic that's been a hot topic in the industry for the last several years, and especially, with the explosion technology, and if you look at the society, it's just huge, and there were two billion portable electronic devices sold last year, and some of the fastest growing devices are the wireless, or the wireless iPads and the tablets. And so, with that -- those have become a traveler's best friend, and I know that I never get on the airplane without my iPad. It is my best friend. And however, making sure that you are a responsible traveler is also important, so making sure that you are paying attention to the safety briefings and the crew members when they give instructions is important. But, you know, we'll see how this plays out and how each airline implements the policy and go from there.
Richard Ruelas: I imagine that there will be times during a weather situation where they may say put it away and will the public be convinced now, it's important, this is real, we need to put it away.
Michelle Donati: And one of the things that is kind of interesting, is, and usually during takeoff and landing you are asked to stow your belongings, including the electronic devices. And the reason that was put in place. It did not have a whole lot or everything to do with that device being on. But, it was more, during takeoff and landing, you want those things secured. So that --
Richard Ruelas: So they are not flying around the cabin.
Michelle Donati: It is more a safety issue.
Richard Ruelas: And we'll see if the airlines charge us from being able to use it, but I appreciate you joining us. Michelle Donati, AAA, Arizona. Thank you.