Alec Baldwin Slams Airplane iPhone Rules

Alec Baldwin may not be running for office, but he may yet affect policy decisions, God help us. The comically volcanic actor is now explaining at length his ejection from an American Airlines flight, and throwing in his lot with the nerds trying to liberate gadgets from aviation regulations: He blames his removal, in part, on "questionable guidelines" governing devices like his iPhone.

Baldwin's AA spat involved the actor being told repeatedly to stop playing the iPhone game "Words with Friends," him complying only briefly, and him eventually cussing out one or more airline staffers. His flack told the New York Times tonight that the incident really boiled down to an "overzealous flight attendant, who was selectively enforcing questionable guidelines." American has said it was enforcing FAA rules that prohibit activating gadgets once the airplane door closes, even if it's sitting for long stretches right at the gate, as in Baldwin's case. Baldwin, in a separate article on the Huffington Post, said "you've got to fly overseas today in order to bring back what has been thrown overboard by US carriers in terms of common sense, style, and service."

Going overseas, as Baldwin suggests, can net travelers more liberty with how they use their digital devices; Kazakhstan's Air Astana, for example, is basically a free for all, while American, United and US Air have all thrown people off their planes in phoning incidents.

American airlines, as a group, should be liberalizing. Baldwin's sky rage aside - American says he stormed into a bathroom stall and then became "extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language" - reason is his ally when it comes to forbidden iPhone indulgence. Without a single reported accident involving interference from an electronic device, the FAA justifies its gadget lockdown by citing an inconclusive 2006 study.

The best argument in Baldwin's favor is probably what was going on in American Airlines cockpits while the TV and movie star was being thrown out of a cabin: The airline's pilots are allowed to use iPads, which replace paper manuals and aeronautical charts. "The F.A.A. said pilots... would not have to shut off and store their iPads during taxiing, takeoff and landing because they had demonstrated that the devices would not impair the functioning of onboard electronics," the Times reported. Just don't let them install Words With Friends on those things. That, apparently, could lead to serious trouble.