Canadian airlines to allowed mobile device use everywhere and almost always

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
People tour the Air Canada's Boeing 787 Dreamliner premium economy section during the unveiling of its brand new international interior product at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS)

The days of being told to turn off Flappy Bird and our other dumb video game obsessions before takeoff is behind us, now that Canada is relaxing its rules on allowing tablets and other personal electronic devices.

Transport Canada announced this week that everything from video game consoles and cell phones to tablets and laptops will be allowed at all stages of flight.

Once upon a time, the Canadian Aviation Regulations required passengers turn off personal devices during takeoff and landing. Something about radio frequencies messing with the airplane's electronics.

That appears to be (mostly) a thing of the past. The U.S. PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee recently concluded that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference. The U.S. and Europe started allowing greater access to personal electronics last year.

Now, Canada's saying we can do the same, as soon as airlines are able to prove their systems are safe and as long as people still turn off their phone service.

Oh, and as long as they promise to still listen to the safety pep talk at the start of the flight.

"This is great news for air passengers, and an exciting day for the Canadian aviation industry," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Tuesday. "By collaborating with our aviation partners, we are able to offer airlines the tools they need to safely enable passengers to use portable electronic devices on airplanes, while still maintaining the highest standards of aviation safety."

Those in the industry have reacted overwhelmingly favourably to the change. Primarily because customer service is priority No. 1 in the aviation industry, but also because there will be no more arguing with Alec Baldwin when he refuses to turn off his phone.

Air Canada said the decision to expand access to personal electronic devices (PEDs) would "enhance the travel experience."

"Our customers have been telling us they want the option to use their PEDs at all time on board our aircraft both for working and entertainment," vice-president Craig Landry said.

WestJet also said it would immediately apply to allow customers greater access to their tech gadgets. Vice-president Bob Cummings called access to portable devices, "a key part of our in-flight experience going forward."

The National Airlines Council of Canada said the move would "better harmonize regulations with those in other jurisdictions."

The endgame, however, is more than just access to gadgets. It is access to the internet. As Air Canada pointed out, the company is currently linking their entire North American fleet with in-flight Wi-Fi access.

As many as 29 aircrafts will be internet compatible by the end of this year. And what good would that be without access to the devices with which to log on? More tablets and telephones means more people seeking that Air Canada Wi-Fi password which, based on the airline industry's passion for charging for everything, will surely be offered at a reasonable cost to the user.

I know we all want that access to PEDs. We'd rather be distracted by our toys that the gabby neighbour in seat 16B. But do we really need to have access to them while we're loading and unloading? While we're taxiing and taking off?

We've heard about instances in the past of rude passengers - people already don't respect the problems that can come with mashing too many people into too small an area. Now give those people unlimited access to their gadgets and speakers and the internet. We'll tear each other apart.

Allowing PEDs during all part of the flying experience will make things more chaotic, not less. But at least we're not cutting back on the number of flight attendants there to keep us in check.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.