TSA regulations vague on gadgets after Detroit incident

Travelers were prohibited from using electronics on international flights this weekend, and in-flight WiFi and TV were banned, but TSA regulations keep changing.

Banned? Travel to the US carries new restrictions after an attempted terror attack on Friday.

The Transportation Security Authority appears to be scrambling in the wake of a Christmas Day incident aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

On approach to Detroit International Airport, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to ignite explosives sewn into his pants. He was discovered by other passengers and subdued, and the flight landed without further incident.

On Monday, the TSA revised a security directive from a day before that had instructed airlines to limit passenger movement 1 hour prior to landing, and which prohibited the use of electronics aboard international flights into the US. Also outlawed were crew announcements about landmarks visible on the ground.

The directive, posted by various airline industry blogs Sunday, told airlines to:

Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.

At least one traveler noticed the change – digital strategist Charlene Li. She tweeted about her experience flying to the US from Canada on Saturday:

New security rules for int'l flights into US. 1 bag, no electronics the ENTIRE flight, no getting up last hour of flight.

At least some of those restrictions appeared short-lived, though, as JetBlue, an airline that heavily promotes its in-seat live TV, tweeted that at least that restriction had been lifted.

Air travel blog Flying with Fish posted revisions to the TSA security directive Monday morning, pointing out that the strong language requiring airlines to carry out the restrictions had been removed, so they may be implemented at the crew's discretion.

So, the verdict on gadgets and goodies like in-flight WiFi and TV? Maybe you'll get to use them, maybe not. One thing's for sure: with holiday travel in full swing, plenty of people will get to experience the TSA's shifting regulations first-hand.


Had an experience flying with the new TSA restrictions? Tell us about it in the comments. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates – we're @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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