Woman and children wait at airport

A woman and children wait for a flight at Orange County's John Wayne Airport. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

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Parents of small children may be cheering the loudest over news that five of the nation’s largest carriers have been cleared to let passengers use portable electronic devices throughout commercial flights.

A new survey of air travelers found that the most important aspect of the new policy is that it will make it easier to keep kids entertained.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Oct. 31 that it will let passengers use e-readers, tablets, music players and other handheld devices throughout a flight as long as the gadgets are switched to “airplane mode” and are emitting no signal.

In the past, the FAA required that passengers turn off and stow away all electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. The new rule still requires that passengers put away heavier devices, such as laptops, that could tumble free during turbulence.

Cellphone calls are still banned.

In an online survey of 744 adults by satellite television company Dish Network Corp., respondents said the most important aspect of the rule change is that the electronic devices will keep kids entertained (26%) and enable fliers to catch up on email (24%) and read books (17%).

A week after the FAA approved the new rules, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue and US Airways have filed and received approval from the agency to adopt the new rules.

Southwest Airlines hopes to get such clearance from the FAA by the end of November. In addition, Southwest officials said they are working to allow their passengers to use the planes’ wireless Internet while the aircrafts are on the tarmac during takeoffs and landings.

There is a good reason airlines have rushed to adopt the new rules.

According to the Dish survey, 56% of respondents said the new rules would affect their choice of airlines and 11% reported “separation anxiety” when they turn off their devices.

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