Court Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Limited Cellphone Use on AirlinersWASHINGTON, May 8 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a flight attendants union that sought to overturn the Federal Aviation Administration‘s decision two years ago to allow unrestricted use of cellphones on airliners.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FAA had the authority to change its policy when it did in 2013 — despite the Association of Flight Attendants arguing that the agency’s decision violated procedure.
The 60,000-member union had sought to reinstate the rule against cellphones, saying they served as a distraction for passengers during flight attendants’ safety presentations, which are given immediately before takeoff.
The union also said it believes the unstored or unstowed electronic devices could pose a threat to general aviation safety.
The AFA argued that the FAA relaxed the restriction on personal electronic devices without going through the required process. But the court disagreed.
“Because the [FAA’s decision] does not determine any rights or obligations, or produce legal consequences, it does not reflect ‘final action’ by the FAA,” the court wrote in its decision. “Therefore, this court has no jurisdiction to consider AFA’s challenge.”
As a result of the suit’s dismissal, airline passengers are permitted to continue using cellphones and other electronic devices from “gate to gate” — which includes takeoff and landing.
For years, electronic device and cellphone use during taxi, takeoff and landing were restricted over fears they could interfere with the aircraft’s communication or navigation systems. Authorities determined, however, that allowing expanded use of the devices was safe.
“The FAA decided to reevaluate its safety recommendations in 2012,” the court acknowledged. “The [rule-making committee’s] report, issued on September 30, 2013, made technical and operational recommendations aimed at helping airlines safely expand passenger use of PEDs.”
The AFA, which was part of the rule-making committee assembled by the FAA, dissented with the committee’s 2013 recommendations and subsequently filed the lawsuit.
The flight attendants union did not immediately respond to the suit’s dismissal.