UPDATE 5 (Final update for this thread): Well, I guess we have an answer to my initial question – is the TSA acting in a knee-jerk manner?
British Airways has just confirmed that OnAir in-flight connectivity, offered on its A318 service between London City and JFK, has been switched back on, and that all moving map functionality across its fleet is also back on, per the TSA’s decision to ease its weekend restrictions! Crew are not permitted to discuss specific locations, but otherwise the IFEC community can breath a sigh of relief…for now.
Lufthansa is being less forthright, but it makes a good point. Says a Lufthansa spokesman: “We are following all directives of the respective authorities and are implementing additional measures on our own. Since all these measures are meant to heighten security standards, we prefer not to discuss them in detail in public. Secondly, as you mentioned below, the directives change frequently, so whatever I would tell you today could be false already the next day.”
Revisions have already been made to the TSA security directive, with the agency generally easing off on some of its original demands, although you wouldn’t know that from reading the TSA’s current online statement. The TSA blog is also far too vague.
So what do we know? Specific to in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC), the TSA has stepped back from restricting IFE and electronics on US-bound flights, according to Delta partner KLM’s blog.
The blog’s author – and a man who has been on top of the TSA securitydirective story since he received a copy of the document over the weekend, Steven Frischling – provides additional perspective here.
Canadian operator WestJet, which offers JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV’s live television system across its Boeing narrowbody fleet, has also confirmed the following: “You’ll get to watch your show! The TSA has removed the restriction requiring us to turn off the LiveTV on flights over the US.“
Today JetBlue provided clarity on moving map displays. The carrier says its moving map channel is available for viewing, but that it is “working closely with TSA” should the agency decide to change course. Additionally, says JetBlue, it is no longer mandatory for foreign carriers flying to the USA to shut down the moving map display. That decision is now at the discretion of the airline and crew, says JetBlue.
Is the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) acting in a knee-jerk, reactionary manner in the wake of a failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on Delta Air Lines flight 253? Or is the agency simply trying to play things ultra-safe while it has a good think about what to do?
Those are the questions that airlines, airframers, in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) firms and travelers will be asking in the coming days.
A TSA directive (which expires on 30 December), obtained by a number of esteemed journalists and bloggers, including Steven Frischling from Flying with Fish and Christopher Elliot of elliot.org, is a must read from start to finish, but for all stakeholders in IFEC, the key pars are as follows:
If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.
During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. 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.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
It goes without saying (but it must be said anyways) that this could have significant ramifications for the IFEC industry.
Questions that immediately come to mind (but there are many more, I’m sure):
Will this directive be extended past the expiration date?
How far will the TSA go? Could this eventually be extended to domestic service?
What does number 4 of the aforementioned list mean for moving map display firms in particular?
What does it mean for every US-bound aircraft that carries millions of dollars worth of IFEC equipment both now and in the future?
How strong or weak is US wiretapping protocol that they are suddenly concerned about “phone, internet access services” during flight?
If you feel strongly about this issue for one reason or another, please add your comments.