Productivity Lost Due to Powering Down Electronic Devices?

Is productivity lost when passengers are restricted from using their portable electronic devices? By the way, blatant advertising alert: click on the photograph above if you are interested in purchasing a slider case for your iPnone 4 series device.


A study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University claims that greater than 105 million hours of technological activity is projected to be disrupted on domestic flights in the United States this year — an estimated increase of 104 percent since 2010 — as a direct result of passengers not being permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration to use portable electronic devices at any time the aircraft is below 10,000 feet in altitude but not on the ground, combined with the surging annual increase in the use of such devices.
The question is this: is the purported safety of fellow passengers and flight crew members by not allowing the use of personal electronic devices during the times when an airplane takes off and lands worth all of that lost productivity, when work can be done?
The answer to that question depends on whether or not you believe that the safety of all aboard an airplane during ascent and descent is improved when all personal electronic devices are completely powered down.
Apparently Alec Baldwin does not believe so, as illustrated by this now-infamous incident back in 2011 when he was forced by a pilot to leave an aircraft operated by American Airlines because he refused to turn off his mobile telephone after the aircraft doors were closed prior to departure.
By the way, I intend to discuss the topic of actually conducting telephone calls aboard airplanes in a future article. This one is about the use of personal electronic devices without using the telephone feature.
Many FlyerTalk members have been skeptical for years, questioning if personal electronic devices really do threaten aircraft. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration considered forming a group to study the policies pertaining to the use of portable electronic device with regard to commercial aviation to determine when they can be used safely during flight…
…but if pilots and flight attendants could use portable electronic devices during take-off and landing, then why should passengers be prohibited from doing the same?
Apparently, 30 percent of passengers feel that way, as the findings of a joint study by the by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association earlier this month reveal that they do not turn off the electronic devices in their possession while airplanes are taking off and landing. Only 59 percent of the passengers who participated in the survey reported that they turned off their devices when asked by crew members; and “airplane mode” was the preferred setting for 21 percent of survey participants.
You have to wonder what is the purpose of “airplane mode” if it is not even allowed to be used for its intended purpose — to the point where attempts to arrest you could occur if you ignore the instructions of a flight attendant and insist on using your portable electronic device in “airplane mode”…
…so should you be concerned if fellow passengers decide to used their portable electronic devices when they are not supposed to do so — or should you be thrilled that they are attempting to cut down on all of that waste of productivity time? How does all of that lost productivity actually translate to any effect on the economy or in business — if at all?
Do you believe that passengers should be allowed to use portable electronic devices at all times during a flight? If so, should the “airplane mode” feature be enabled or disabled — and when? In other words — as asked by Gerry Wingenbach at The Tarmac recently — “On or Off: Which is it for Electronic Devices on Aircraft?

One thought on “Productivity Lost Due to Powering Down Electronic Devices?”

  1. Andy Big Bear says:

    So, back in the late eighties I was on a NASA team with a grant to determine the productivity and safety gains for pilots if personal information electronics, like the Newton at the time, were allowed on board planes. I’ve had to wait twenty five years and many iterations of technology solutions to actually see the predicted gains take place.
    At the time even with initial investigations, we concluded that any safety concerns could be remediated easily once they were identified. If you look at that Boeing study from a couple years ago that said that iPads had a large amount of RF emissions that were at “dangerous levels” you’ve seen those concerns were easily remediated and a year after that study we have iPads in the cockpit. The introduction of iPads into the cockpit also coincides with some of the safest air travel years on record, and I don’t have data to support the correlation, but it was one of our predictions.
    So it’s not just a question of lost productivity; in a sense studying what you’ve lost is like driving while looking in a rear view mirror The real question is what are the opportunity costs we are paying now by hindering the adoption of emerging technology in all venues? I mean, we had the technology to help pilots with their pre and post flight duties over twenty five years ago, why did it take so long to adopt? Are we really going to continue hindering adoption of technologies that can make everyone’s lives better for the sake of fear, only reinforced by anecdotal evidence that can’t be empirically verified?

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