Turn Off Your Electronic Devices

Basic of Air Travel: Turn Off Electronic Devices

You are finally on the plane, your bags are stowed, and I bet your thinking, oh good, it’s time to go!  But wait — there are still a few more things that need to happen, and that need your attention before you get to blast off.

Everyone needs to be in their seats, with all carried on items stowed, before the front airplane door can be closed.  So settle in, put your things away, and buckle up.

Jumping up and moving seats, getting into the overheads, and heading for the bathroom are all activities that will delay a flight.  Those activities are all okay, just not at the moment the flight is ready to leave.

US carriers require that all electronics be turned off before the front door can be closed for pushback.  Flight Attendants are required to verify compliance and report in so that the front door can be closed.  While I recommend you follow the advice from this post when it comes to cell phone use, at this point in the departure process here’s what you need to focus on:

When you are asked to turn off your phone or PDA, we really need you to end your call NOW and turn off the power.  If it looks like you are in the process of doing just that, we’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt, but if the backlight is on, if you’re typing, or scrolling through something, we know that it’s not turned off!

We need the power turned off at this point, not just having the device in airplane mode.  Please comply.  If you don’t, you are holding up the departure process, giving your fellow travelers every right to be annoyed at you for causing a delay.

I have actually had a passenger say that they didn’t care if they caused a delay because they had important business to attend to, and we could just wait.  They were accommodated — by having some extended ground time to handle all their business and traveling on a later flight.

I love my cell phone as much as the next person, and with the travel schedule that I have, it’s frequently the only way anyone can get in touch with me.

Still, there are certain basic courtesies that must be followed.  Traveling can occasionally bring out the worst in people, resulting in the frequent “it’s all about me” syndrome.  Toss in cramped quarters, and discourteous cell phone manners and you have a recipe for disaster.

12 Tips for Cell Phone Use on an Airplane

  1. Don’t use your cell phone while boarding.  With a couple of carry-ons in one hand, a boarding pass in another, and a cell phone, well, juggling between the two. You just can’t navigate the aisle, get to your seat, stow your bags, and put on your seat belt while holding onto your cell phone.  Get on, stow your bags, sit down, and then, if there’s time make your call.
  2. If you’ve ignored the above suggestion, don’t stop in the middle of the aisle to send a text message, or to continue your conversation.  There are people behind you trying to get to their seats.  You are holding up progress, and no one wants to wait on you.
  3. Don’t try to talk to the flight attendants about your seating problem, drink or meal order, or special request while you’re talking on the phone.  Give us a couple of minutes of your time and we’ll see what we can do for you.  Multi-tasking in this situation means nothing gets accomplished.  Besides, it’s just plain rude.
  4. When you are asked to discontinue use, do so.  If it really looks like you’re finishing up a call, we’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are disconnecting.  But if you are just dialing, don’t expect us to believe you when you say you are almost through.  Hang up.  We really want to get going.  Now.
  5. Turn the power off when asked to do so.  This is true for cell phones and for PDAs.  Most airlines require that all electronics be turned off before closing the door for push back and taxi.  The Flight Attendants are required to do a walkthrough to confirm.  We’ll ask you again to turn it off.  This time, probably a bit more firmly. You are now holding up the process, and potentially causing a delay.  Look around at all the people you are inconveniencing.  Your phone call is not as important as all those other people, and the reason they are all turning to give you dirty looks is that you’re rude.
  6. Take off your headset.  If you have a headset on and are talking, we are going to assume that you are still on the phone and ask you to turn it off.  The headset needs to be removed anyway, so just do it and save everyone a lot of grief.  (Ditto with your PDA.  If you’re still typing, it’s probably on.)
  7. Don’t shout.  It’s bad enough when you shout on the ground, but when you’re in the confined space of an airplane, with people sandwiched in all around you, it’s even worse, as sound can amplify.  Watch your volume.
  8. Consider the content of your conversation.  People can hear you, so you should think twice about the personal data you reveal (like giving a credit card number to reserve a hotel room) when there are people so close to you.
  9. Watch your language.  As I said, your voice can amplify in the airplane.  While your personal conversation is personal, if everyone around you can hear your expletives or your X-rated content, we are going to be asked to intervene.  And we will.
  10. Eliminate the “Can you hear me now syndrome.”  Reception in the airplane can sometimes be spotty.  Whether I’m on the other end of your conversation having to deal with it, or sitting next to you listening to you shout or ask “can you hear me now,” it gets old.  Really fast.  Just hang up and call back when you have better coverage.  It will save everyone involved a lot of frustration.  You too.
  11. Don’t try to talk over the background noises on the plane.  Airplanes are noisy places.  There are lots of people and lots of conversations.  Pilots and flight attendants are making announcements.  The air conditioner may be on.  There’s noise from the activity on the tarmac.  Face it — it’s noisy!  Don’t continue to raise your voice in the hopes of being able to talk louder than everyone else.  If you’re trying to talk over the voice of the Flight Attendants, we’re just going to continue to talk louder until you get the hint.
  12. Keep your cell phone handy if you want to use it taxiing in.  Most airlines allow you to use your cell phone while you are taxiing to the gate.  But you still can’t unbuckle your seat belt or take out your carry-ons.

I always try to follow my own advice in using my cell phone, and if I should fall short, I would certainly expect someone to gently remind me of my inconsideration.  I hate having to be the one to do that to you, so please — just use a little courtesy and we’ll all get along.

If you’re following on with our Basics of Air Travel series, read more about more facts of plane travel below.

  1. Checking in From Home
  2. Get to the Airport on Time
  3. Checking & Carrying on Luggage
  4. Getting Through Security – Planning
  5. Airport Security – Rules & Etiquette
  6. Getting to Your Departure Gate
  7. Boarding the Plane & Stowing Your Bags
  8. Turning Off Your Electronic Devices
  9. Safety Demonstration
  10. Beverage Service
  11. Airplane Etiquette
  12. Descent
  13. Landing & Deplaning
  14. Leaving the Airport


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