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Rules, shmules: Fliers leaving devices switched on in droves

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While the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) debates whether airline passengers should be allowed to keep their portable electronic devices switched on during flights, the truth is that many of them already do, according to a new survey.

The study, released jointly on Thursday by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), found that fully 99 per cent of the 1,629 adults surveyed brought some kind of device with them when they traveled during 2012.

What's more, 30 per cent of airline passengers reported "accidentally" leaving their devices on during a flight. Oops!

For others, it clearly wasn't so accidental. Only 59 per cent of survey participants said they always switched their devices off when asked to do so by airline personnel.

Another 21 per cent said they switched their devices to "airplane mode" – fair play during most of the flight, but technically a no-no during takeoff and landing.

And then there were the scofflaws, the ones who said they only "sometimes" turn their devices completely off. They were a relative minority, but at 5 per cent of the survey group, there are enough of them out there for there to be one on every flight.

Of the passengers who admitted to accidentally leaving their devices on during a flight, 61 per cent said the device was a smartphone. Other popular devices on flights included laptops, tablets, audio players, and e-readers.

"The data in the study reveals important insights into actual passenger behavior, which we hope the FAA will find useful as it deliberates on this issue," APEX executive director Russell Lemieux said in a statement.

The report conveniently arrives just as Congress has stepped up pressure on the FAA to review its policies on in-flight fondleslabbing by passengers.

The agency has reportedly already given the green light for pilots to use iPads during all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing, and 40 per cent of passengers in the APEX/CEA survey said they would like to do the same.

Naturally, the full results of the APEX/CEA study have already been delivered to the FAA's Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PED ARC) for its members to consider.

The committee has been given until July 2013 to draft recommendations on how to expand the use of portable device in flight, "without compromising the continued safe operation of the aircraft." ®

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