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NYC-area air travelers could face phone fines

By Dave Porter

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 9:36 p.m. MDT

In this April 20, 2010 file aerial photo, the air traffic control tower and terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport are shown in New York.

Mark Lennihan, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEWARK, N.J. — The agency that operates the New York City area's three major airports wants passengers who don't turn off their cellphones or tablets before takeoff to pay up or go to court.

The executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday the agency is considering levying fines that could reach tens of thousands of dollars for behavior that causes flight delays.

"We think that with the economic costs of delays and with the passenger inconvenience and the effect on our airports' ability to serve 100 million passengers a year, it's the right thing to do," Pat Foye said.

The issue of electronic devices on planes received national publicity in December when Alec Baldwin was kicked off a New York-bound flight in Los Angeles for refusing to turn off his cellphone. Baldwin, who stars on NBC's "30 Rock," later issued an apology to fellow American Airlines passengers who were delayed but mocked a flight attendant on Twitter.

The use of electronic devices on planes generally is prohibited during takeoffs and landings, and passengers are warned by public announcements. The Port Authority initiative is believed to be the only one of its kind being contemplated at a domestic airport, but it's unclear whether the agency would have the power to implement it. News of the Port Authority's plans was first reported in the New York Post.

According to Foye, Port Authority police last year responded to about 400 calls involving passengers who refused to turn off their electronic devices at John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports. Foye said he believes for every one of those episodes there may have been dozens more in which police weren't called but delays may have ensued.

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