"The current rules are inconvenient to travelers, don't make sense and lack a scientific basis," McCaskill said in a statement, adding that she is "prepared to pursue legislative solutions should progress be made too slowly."
It's an open secret that many people don't turn off their phones and portable devices when told to on a plane, Seaney said. "The bottom line is that if it was dangerous, they would confiscate your phones as you got on the plane," he said.
Hanni said she was "almost positive" the FAA in 2013 will pave the way for use of electronics below 10,000 feet. "The FAA will be laughed at for making this a big deal for so many years," she said. "It's just stupid."
Use of wireless phones or other electronics for voice calls is not being considered in that FAA review, and experts say it doesn't have the same support - on Capitol Hill or among passengers who would be annoyed by a seatmate speaking loudly on what some call their "yellular" phone.
CRUISING IN COMFORT
Inside the aircraft cabin, passengers during 2013 will continue to see significant changes. Many airlines will be taking delivery of new planes, while others are upgrading cabin interiors.
"Finally, after over a decade, airlines are going to spend some capital," Seaney said. "You saw a little bit of it (in 2012), you'll see a lot more of it in 2013, taking delivery of new aircraft - not to expand their fleet but to replace what's there."
Mary Kirby, editor-in-chief of Airline Passenger Experience magazine, said 2013 will be "quite an exciting time."
Onboard wireless Internet access is an example.
While Wi-Fi has been available on many domestic flights for a while, the difference in 2013 will be seeing more airlines offering connectivity on trans-Atlantic flights, which require Internet access via satellites rather than ground towers.
"That's actually quite important," Kirby said, because passengers are disconnected for so many hours on long-haul flights.
For example, American Airlines has said its new Boeing 777-300ERs, scheduled to start flying early in 2013, will have satellite Wi-Fi. And United Airlines and Delta Air Lines also plan to outfit more planes in 2013 with it.
"Other carriers are going to follow suit," Kirby said. "Passengers in America can start expecting U.S. carriers to start offering Wi-Fi on long-haul flights, including over the Atlantic and, increasingly, down to South America and eventually trans-Pacific as well."
Another trend is not so welcomed. Some airlines, in an effort to maintain profits, are stuffing more seats onto planes, offering less legroom and elbow room in economy class - even on longer, international flights.
For example, United's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes are quieter and offer many cabin comforts, but the airline chose to place nine seats across in economy class, making for less personal space than Boeing envisioned with eight seats across. Similarly, American's new 777-300 will have a tight configuration of 10 abreast in coach.
"We're going to be squeezed in tighter than ever before in long-haul aircraft," Kirby said. Passengers can "suck it up" in a tight seat during a flight of just a few hours, but flying 10 or 14 hours that way "changes the whole comfort equation entirely."
Of course, airlines have started to offer extra inches for extra cost. Offerings for premium economy seats, with a little more legroom, will continue to expand in 2013, she said.
"Airlines know this is something they have to do because there are so many road warriors flying in economy class," Kirby said. "For those of us who need to work on flights, it's pretty essential to have a little extra room, so we can pull out that laptop."
However, most major U.S. airlines use the same actual seats as economy-class with the same number of seats across, so you don't get a more comfortable cushion and often you don't get more width, either, she said.
Another trend for 2013 will be wireless inflight entertainment - offering on-demand movies, TV shows and other entertainment that passengers can view and listen to on their own devices, such as a laptops and tablet computers. Virgin America and even ultralow-cost carrier Allegiant Air are examples of airlines that will offer wireless entertainment in 2013, she said.
That's not benevolence, however. Offering better entertainment is mostly about helping passengers forget about their cramped seat, Kirby said.
"It's about distracting the brain from the pain," she said.
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