I don’t go anywhere without my Gameboy and that includes when I travel by plane. Mobile phones are cool for Netflix on the go but if I want my classic video game distraction on my plane trip it’s got to be my Gameboy Color. In 2013, the rules and guidelines for personal electronics during flights changed.
So, are Gameboys still allowed on planes? Yes! According to the Federal Aviation Administration, passengers can safely use their personal electronics from gate to gate as long as they are in airplane mode for the duration of the time.
We have been lucky with the Gameboy because it was produced before the internet and cheap data connections began, so they do not propose the risk that other electronics that can connect to the internet propose.
What is a Gameboy?
Just in case you didn’t know, the Gameboy is an 8-bit handheld game console and released in 1989 in North America. It was released first in Japan in April of the same year, and in Europe in 1990.
The handheld console was manufactured and produced by Nintendo, a Japanese consumer electronics and video game company with a huge international reach. Practically everyone has heard of Nintendo.
Gameboys have been around for three decades now, so they are both nostalgic and charming childhood tokens for 30, 40 and even 50 -somethings as well as classic, retro gaming devices for new gamers with an appreciation for video games’ humble beginnings.
What Can a Gameboy Do?
The Gameboy is a very basic portable console that does not produce a threat in our modern travel-centric society. Most features of the Gameboy are considered today to be basic and commonplace.
Some features of the Gameboy include:
- 4 operational buttons and a directional pad
- Volume control dial
- Contract control dial
- On/off switch
- Slot for game cartridges
- Spot for 4 AA batteries
- A power supply jack that allows for the use of rechargeable batteries and/or an AC adapter
- Headphone jack
- A port that can be used to either link two Gameboys together with a link cable or connect the Gameboy to a printer with a link cable
To someone living in 2019, these features sound terribly outdated. Even if this was the height of technology at the time in 1989, it is not a threat to modern planes.
Gameboys were allowed on planes before the FAA regulation change, as long as they were turned off during take-off and landing. The normal “rule of thumb” with any electronic allowed on a plane before the regulation change was to turn it off whenever the “fasten seatbelt” light was on.
What Does the FAA Say About Electronics on Planes?
Even with the Federal Aviation Administration’s update to the rules and guidelines regarding what they refer to as PEDs (portable electronic devices), the decision of what is allowed onto a plane is under the direct control of the airline because, just like automobiles, planes can vary from airline to airline.
This is what the FAA released regarding PEDs on planes in September of 2013:
- Most airplanes of commercial size could tolerate interference from radio transmissions of small electronic devices.
- The FAA would provide airlines with the criteria they need to test their airplanes to see what kind of if any, interference they can handle.
- Once an airline decided that they were safe to use, lightweight, handheld electronic devices would be allowed on their planes. Such devices included e-readers and smartphones.
- In any case of severe weather or weather that limited visibility, all PEDs should be required to be turned off.
- Heavier electronic devices should not be allowed on during flights and must be properly stored.
The PED ARC report, namely the Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee Report, also contained technical, operational, and safety communications that dealt with PEDs and their presence on planes.
The report also suggested that airlines provide proper accommodations for the evolving technology and PEDs that the general public was using. Some were:
- Use a Safety Management System to try to contain the risk of PEDs as used by those traveling in airplanes.
- Adjust airplanes to make them more PED-tolerant.
- Train airplane staff to recognized and respond to threats and interference proposed by PEDs.
- Develop proper literature and messaging to inform plane travelers of new rules and guidelines that regard PEDs as they change.
What are the Current Rules for Electronics on Planes?
The Federal Aviation Administration lists a series of rules regarding PEDs in planes.
Those guidelines include:
- Most PEDs that contain batteries can be kept in both carry-on and checked baggage. This is only for regular dry cell batteries and lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries.
- This includes cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, electronic games, tablets, laptops, cameras, camcorders, watches, calculators, and more.
- Devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets that have lithium-based batteries should be kept in carry-on baggage when at all possible.
- If devices like this are forced to be put into checked baggage, they have to be packed completely turned off in a way that they can absolutely not be accidentally turned on. They must also be well protected, so they cannot be damaged while in baggage areas.
- Any spare lithium batteries that are not being used by devices must be kept in the carry-on bag with the passenger until they board the plane. Once on the plane, the batteries must be taken out of the bag and carried with the passenger.
Getting Through Security with Electronics
Make sure that you do not pack your electronics too deeply into your bag because, while going through security, you will need to pull each electronics out for inspection.
However, there are some TSA-approved carry on bags that have special zippers and foldouts that can allow electronics to be stored in a way that they can be passed through security without needing to take everything out.
Additionally, there is a program called TSA Pre-Check that costs $85 for a five-year membership. This program can allow you to pass through TSA checkpoints without unpacking your electronics.
Using Electronics While on the Plane
Generally, PEDs that are allowed to be used on planes can be used to full capacity while waiting on the plane to ready for takeoff. However, once takeoff is announced, all PEDs have to be put in airplane mode for the duration of the flight.
Today, many airlines offer WiFi that you can use while you are on the plane. You also have the option to download movies and videos and games that you can play while offline on a flight.
How do These Rules Affect Gameboys?
The good news is – they don’t! Gameboys do not have internet capabilities and cannot interfere or connect with WiFi. While they do emit some radio transmission, the FAA ruled those transmissions harmless years ago.
That said, the rules regarding electronics on flights change quite often, mostly because of the state of security in the country in which you are currently flying. It is wise to check up on current electronic guidelines for any airline that you are planning to fly with before packing and leaving for your trip.
Gameboys, while considered retro, can be a great way to ease boredom during a flight that doesn’t allow for full use of other PEDs you may have carried onto the plane with you.
Gameboys rely simply on game cartridges and regular AA batteries to work. They propose no threat to the powerhouses that are modern airplanes; therefore, they are allowed on planes.
So, grab your beloved Gameboy the next time you have to head on a plane trip for simple pleasures that even TSA can’t ruin!