Passengers: It's Not Yet Time to Turn on Your Electronic Devices

July 29--If you are itching to switch on your iPad or Kindle reader while your plane taxis for takeoff, you are going to have to wait at least a little longer.

A panel assembled by the Federal Aviation Administration to consider relaxing the rules on using portable electronic devices on airplanes has asked for more time to come up with its recommendations.

The panel -- made up of representatives from airlines, aircraft builders and electronics firms, as well as pilots, flight attendants and others -- was scheduled to produce a recommendation by Wednesday. Instead, it has asked to continue deliberations until Sept. 30.

If the panel is having trouble reaching a consensus, that wouldn't be surprising. The comments submitted to the group show that Americans overall are split on the subject.

Rich Santoriello of Raleigh, N.C., commented in favor of easing the rules that prohibit using electronic devices during takeoffs and landings.

"I would like to use my iPad during takeoff and landing while it is in airplane mode and not emitting any signals," he wrote. "I'm sorry, I just do not see the harm in these devices, especially with the sophisticated electronics we have in aircraft today."

Albert Smith of Morris, Ill., agreed, writing: "They make me turn off my Kindle. It is a book reader. It does not transmit anything."

Travelers who want to keep the current restrictions in place pointed to issues of safety and courtesy.

"Allowing portable electronic devices to be used on the plane will make passengers less likely to listen to safety instructions, and rather than helping out in case of an emergency, there will be someone updating their Facebook status as 'losing cabin pressure,' " wrote Molly Major of Minot, N.D.

Hotel scores get an upgrade

The investments that many hotels made to upgrade their properties after the Great Recession are starting to pay off.

Overall hotel guest satisfaction, measured on a 1,000-point scale, jumped 20 points since 2012 to an average of 777, according to the latest J.D. Power & Associates study of guests' satisfaction with North American hotels.

Experts say the latest scores, the highest marks in seven years, are a response to upgrades and remodeling projects done by hotels to entice guests back after the financial crisis.

Among several Southern California hotels that invested in recent upgrades was the three-star Holiday Inn in downtown Los Angeles, across the street from L.A. Live and Staples Center. It underwent a $10-million makeover to become a four-star property with a swanky new name: Luxe City Center Hotel.

"Since the renovation and since my arrival [in April], there has been double-digit growth in rates and occupancy," said Tom Xavier, general manager of the hotel.

The J.D. Power study also found that price is not the best way to choose a hotel.

Guests who choose a hotel primarily based on price are not as happy with their hotel as those who choose based on information they dig up from hotel review websites, according to the study.

The study collected responses from more than 68,700 hotel guests from Canada and the United States who stayed in a North American hotel from June 2012 to May 2013.

In the Spirit of cheapness

No one ever accused Spirit Airlines of being classy.

After all, the Florida airline sells wine in a can for $7 and has installed coach seats that don't adjust.

Spirit is fortifying its brazen image with new ads that play off the birth of Britain's royal baby as well as the latest misadventures of New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.

One ad proclaims, "the Weiner rises again," alongside an image of a hot dog wearing a mask and hat. Another shows a baby in a crown getting dropped out of a window.

Spirit has a history of such promotional gimmicks. The airline ran ads during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico showing well-oiled, bikini-clad women lounging in the sand with the tag line: "Check out the oil on our beaches."

Spirit's brashest gimmick may have been when it hired a stripper mobile -- a van pulling a large plexiglass box containing a pole-dancing stripper -- to cruise the streets of Las Vegas, promoting cheap fares between Los Angeles and Sin City.

On the outside of the van, the airline promoted its $9 fare club with the messages "Take me home for $9" and "I'll go both ways for $18."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Copyright 2013 - Los Angeles Times

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