• Panel at International CES in Las Vegas Draws Air Travel Enthusiasts from Around the Country

New York | February 3, 2014– Rarely is the topic of portable devices on planes the focus of as much public attention as right now – making front-page national news and changing the way we look at our portable electronic and smartphone capabilities and the passenger experience overall. The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), is leading the national conversation by illuminating trends in passenger thinking while closely examining public policy. A joint APEX/CEA session at the International CES January in Las Vegas captivated an audience of air travel enthusiasts eager for more information  on how new regulations are shaping the industry.

The joint session follows a collaborative effort between APEX and CEA to gauge public sentiment on portable electronic devices (PEDs) inflight. The joint survey was presented to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) leading up to the FAA’s announcement last fall that properly tested aircraft may allow PED use below the previous 10,000-feet threshold and during all phases of flight.

“Once the FAA made its determination, airlines moved quickly. Within six weeks of the FAA announcement of new guidance, more than 60 percent of U.S. airlines, representing 86 percent of the U.S. ‘large carrier’ fleet, and carrying 95 percent of U.S. passengers, had determined that their aircraft are ‘PED tolerant’ through testing approved by the FAA,” said Michael Childers, APEX board member and a representative on the FAA ARC. “International airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa are following suit. Now that a solid majority of U.S. airlines have implemented PED-friendly policies, we’re really able to explore what this means for the passenger experience.”

The panel comprised industry and government heavyweights, including Chuck Cook, manager, Fleet Programs and Technology, JetBlue Airways; Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir; Bill de Groh, chairman, Aircraft Design and Operations Group, Air Line Pilots Association, International; Julius Knapp, chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Timothy Shaver, branch manager, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); and Kirk Thornburg, managing director, Engineering, Quality, Technology & Training, Delta Air Lines and the ARC Chairman. The panel was moderated by Gautham Nagesh, technology Policy Reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

The panel discussed ongoing issues that have resulted from the FAA decision. For example, the expanded use of PEDs has raised concerns about how they are secured during takeoff and landing, even if they do not have to be turned off. APEX representatives were among the PED ARC members who expressed concerns on this issue. During the panel discussion, the FAA acknowledged that it is still monitoring PED stowage policy, and airlines on the panel said that stowage policies are still being discussed in an effort to harmonize them.

In addition to looking at new regulations, the panel delved into the subject of potential policy changes related to inflight phone calls, a topic that has the close attention of the traveling public and airlines alike. For example, the panel revealed that inflight device usage is broken down to 60 percent email use, 30 percent texting and 10 percent voice calls – showing only weak interest in voice calls, OnAir’s Dawkins said.

“So that’s a very small part of it,” he said during the panel discussion. “The voice calls we have are less than 2 minutes, and they tend to be not long after takeoff when the systems are switched on (above 10,000 feet) or just before the system is switched off.”

Panelists also covered ways in which airlines have responded to the changing regulations and trends in securing WiFi on U.S. aircraft. The full session is available for viewing at http://www.cesweb.org/News/CES-TV/IPS-Videos.