Train yourself to be obedient on planes

A passenger use their laptop on a flight. - filepic/Reuters

As the laptop ban spreads, electronics junkies are going to have to provide themselves with placebos.

“PLEASE switch off all electronic devices. You may use them after the fasten seat belt sign has been switched off,” a flight attendant announced.

Last Saturday, I was on a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur, as I was heading back home to attend the Anak-Anak Malaysia Walk in Shah Alam the next day. The plane was about to take off.

I looked up to see if there were any flight attendants nearby.


So I ignored the announcement and continued watching Glitch, an Australian paranormal TV series, that I had downloaded to my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 tablet.

I was on Season 1, Episode 5 where James, a small town policeman, has to deal with the complexity of a bizarre love triangle. He has to explain to Sarah, his nine-month pregnant wife, that Kate, his dead wife (who is also Sarah’s best friend) has risen from the dead.


And I just couldn’t obey the flight attendant’s instruction. I continued watching Glitch.

I’ve Googled about the use of electronic devices during take-off and landing. The United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforced the rule based on the idea that a phone or a tablet interfered with the operation of a plane. It seems an iPad could produce enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt a flight.

However, there’s no proof that electronic devices interfered with a plane’s avionics.

A New York Times blog article, “Disruptions: The Real Hazards of E-Devices on Planes”, states:

“The FAA should check out an annual report issued by Nasa that compiles cases involving electronic devices on planes. None of those episodes have produced scientific evidence that a device can harm a plane’s operation. Reports of such interference have been purely speculation by pilots about the cause of a problem.”

Just as Sarah was to come face-to-face with Kate, who had died two years earlier, a flight attendant politely told me to switch off my tablet. I felt like telling her that it was okay to use the tablet.

But I didn’t.

I could imagine that my friendly tech advice might turn nasty and I might get arrested for plane rage or breaking flight regulations. I know myself. Lately I have been snappy and sarcastic.

Earlier, as I went through immigration in the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, an immigration officer said, “Why do you need to tell me that you are from Sabah?” as I gave him my identity card.

“What’s WRONG with me telling you I’m from Sabah! Sia mau bikin KARAJA kau senang bah (I just wanted to MAKE your job easier),” I snapped in Sabah Malay slang. (Even a Sabahan has to produce identification documents to enter or leave the state.)

I broke one of my rules of life – never be angry/rude to waiters and immigration officers. (Waiters because you never know what they’ll do with your food and immigration officers because you never know; they might give you a thorough physical screening that might be painful.)

Back to flight attendants. Sometimes, I do feel like I should give them a lecture that the use of electronic devices on planes is safe.

Instead, I followed her polite request and switched off my tablet.

Two hours later, I was typing this article on my tablet as the plane was about to descend to Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“We are about to land at KLIA. Please switch off all electronic devices. You can only use your mobile phone when the plane has stopped,” a flight attendant announced.

I ignored her instruction. Some other passengers did, too. They were busy sending WhatsApp messages. One even had the gall to call someone on her mobile phone.

Did the plane crash?


Why didn’t I follow the simple rule and switch off my electronic devices?

First, I don’t think they will interfere with the plane’s avionics.

Secondly, I get nervous when I am doing nothing. I need to fiddle with my Samsung Galaxy S8+ to check the hundreds of backlogged WhatsApp messages or play chess on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

Plus it takes about 20 to 30 minutes from the time they announce you can’t use your electronic devices to the time you can use them. I’d be bored looking at my fingers.

Perhaps I should be a more obedient passenger. Or train to be more obedient on a plane.

In the age of global terrorism threats, electronic devices might be banned on planes.

In March, the Trump administration announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, because it feared a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.

“... when people like Homeland Security head John Kelly sound ready to drastically restrict travellers’ use of electronics in plane cabins? – expanding a limited ban that’s already in place? – we need to move into planning mode, not just worrying mode. If you’re among those who travel with a laptop, tablet, or digital camera, get ready for a huge mess,” reported a Wired article, “What to Do If the Laptop Ban Goes Global”.

If the ban goes global, I intend to go old school and bring tons of magazines and books to distract myself on a flight.

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Opinion , Philip Golingai , columnist


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