Aviation regulators have cleared the safe use of mobile devices during take-off and landing for US airlines. US carriers are expected to let passengers use smart phones, tablets, and e-book readers from gate to gate by the end of the year.
Internet connections for email, web surfing, and downloading will be prohibited below 10,000 feet. Cellular voice calls will remain banned because of the possibility of radio interference with flight equipment.
The changes to US regulations mean passengers will be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos for the duration of domestic and international flights.
Airlines will need to perform safety checks before changing their current policies on device use.
Carriers must show the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that they can handle the effects that mobile devices have on flight instruments and avionics, and they must assess risks such as stowage problems.
US airline Delta said it had submitted a plan to the regulator, and expected to let customers on domestic flights use personal electronic devices as early as November.
The relaxation of rules for US carriers could have a knock-on effect for other world airlines. In the UK regulators will study how the FAA rules can be applied to UK airlines.