c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — Airline passengers can use electronic devices to listen to music, read and play games in “all phases of flight,” the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday, but using a cellphone to talk and text will still be banned.

The changes will most likely take effect before the end of the year, the FAA said, after airlines determine that their aircraft can tolerate the interference.

Passengers will still be prohibited from browsing the Web and checking email once the plane’s doors have been closed and until its Wi-Fi network has been turned on, usually above 10,000 feet. Rules for cellphone use are set by the Federal Communications Commission and are unlikely to change soon.

The administrator of the FAA, Michael P. Huerta, said he expected that, with rare exceptions, airlines would allow the use of tablets, MP3 players and smartphones in “airplane mode,” with their cell network connections turned off. The airlines will have to conduct tests on their equipment and submit the results to the FAA for approval, he said.

Soon after Huerta spoke, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue announced that they would submit a plan for passengers to use electronics in flight.

The change would not be universal, Huerta said. “In some instances of low visibility, 1 percent of flights, some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference,” said Huerta, briefing reporters in the ticketing lobby of Ronald Reagan National Airport. “In those cases, passengers may be asked to turn off personal electronic devices.”

The change followed the recommendation an advisory committee made on Sept. 30.

Huerta stressed that passengers would be told to turn off their electronics when the flight attendants gave preflight safety briefings about what to do in an emergency, and that the airlines would have to develop new rules about stowing electronics during takeoff and landing.

While flight attendants have no effective way to determine whether a cellphone or tablet is really in airplane mode during flight, Huerta said, “There’s no safety problem if they’re not, but you’re going to arrive at your destination with a dead battery,” because the device would continue looking for a cell connection and would not find it.