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AFA Wants Standard for Managing Use Of Personal Wireless Devices

Date: July 12, 2004

Clear, Consistent Rule to Verify Disabled Transmitters is Lacking

WASHINGTON — Concerned with the growing use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) containing transmitters whose interference with aircraft systems may pose safety risks, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, has joined forces with industry groups to develop and recommend standard practices to manage their use onboard aircraft in flight.

PEDs with wireless capabilities perform a host of useful tasks. In addition to transmitting and receiving, they play games and music, manage contacts and schedules and balance checkbooks. Yet “with the current lack of standards, flight attendants must rely on the verbal assurances of passengers, who in turn may be unfamiliar with the specifications of these complex devices,” said AFA President Pat Friend.

Several American carriers recently loosened their restrictions on the in-flight use of multifunction wireless devices. At these carriers, cabin crews are now asked to verify that transmitters are turned off or otherwise disabled. However, this is a nearly impossible task, as today there is no standard that ensures through a consistent and recognizable symbol that a transmitter has been disabled. It is also not possible today for device owners to be certain that the transmitter on their device is disabled, short of turning the power off or removing its batteries.

“Airlines are jumping the gun on this issue,” Friend said. “I would encourage all carriers to wait until a realistic standard is recommended by airline and technology industry stakeholders, and adopted by device manufacturers. We support efforts by such groups as the Consumer Electronics Association to create an industry-recommended practice that will serve to indicate clearly whether the in-flight use of a given portable electronic device is permitted.”

More than 46,000 flight attendants join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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