Using Electronics on Takeoff, Standing Flight Attendants (Ask Cranky)

I have an Ask Cranky two-fer today as one reader had two semi-related questions to ask. Fortunately, I’ve got the answers (or as close to the answers as I’m going to get).

Hi Cranky,
A couple questions about FAA Regulations.
1) I’ve often wondered why FA’s are free to walk around the cabin (to check seatbelts, pass out menus, etc) on taxi out but have to remain seated until the plane reaches the gate upon arrival. Same airplane traveling on the same taxiways but different rules. Note: I fly AA – perhaps this is not the case on other carriers.
2) Are the rules regarding no electronic devices upon takeoff and landing really necessary? Are the regulations based on science? Could an iPod or Laptop really bring down a 777?

Let’s take these in order.

  1. The official ruling is in Federal Aviation Regulations Section 121.391 (d):

    During takeoff and landing, flight attendants required by this section shall be located as near as practicable to required floor level exists and shall be Ask Crankyuniformly distributed throughout the airplane in order to provide the most effective egress of passengers in event of an emergency evacuation. During taxi, flight attendants required by this section must remain at their duty stations with safety belts and shoulder harnesses fastened except to perform duties related to the safety of the airplane and its occupants.
    So it’s because they get to perform safety-related duties such as checking safety belts upon departure. If they’re handing out menus, well, that’s probably not allowed. I’m sure that if it’s in conjunction with the seatbelt check it’s not a big deal.

  2. I have heard a couple different reasons for this, but maybe others can chime in:
    • Some devices could be problematic while others may not be, but it’s easier to just ban them all to avoid any confusion or issues.
    • I’ve also heard that it’s a safety concern in a different way. During the most critical phases of flight (takeoff and landing), it is important that passengers be able to pay attention to their surroundings and clearly understand crew instructions. If you’re listening to your iPod or playing a video game, that might make evacuation more difficult if necessary.

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