Turns out that Alec Baldwin isn't the only jerk who refuses to turn off his phone or tablet. Numbers are sketchy, but flight attendants say that electronic devices have become the leading cause of unruly behavior by passengers. They just don't believe the machines can cause any problems, and, truth be told, there's only limited research on the subject, none of it conclusive. From the WSJ's Scott McCartney:
Travelers who "think 'it's no big deal' or 'the rule doesn't apply to me'--those are the hardest," says Kelly Skyles, an American Airlines flight attendant. "Most passenger misconduct cases now deal with noncompliance with electronic devices." Airline rules backed by federal laws allow crews to turn a plane back to the gate and toss passengers off flights to prevent disputes in the air. In most cases, it isn't the initial issue that gets people kicked off planes, whether they've been told to pull up their saggy pants, clean up their language or stop playing "Words With Friends" on their iPhones. Instead, it's the ensuing argument.
Crews have anecdotally reported numerous issues linked to computers or devices on board, such as erroneous warnings on collision-avoidance systems, heavy static on radio frequencies and false readings on instrument landing systems, according to NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, a database to which crews submit voluntary incident reports. In some instances, crews caught passengers talking on a phone or using a computer when they weren't supposed to. The crews were able to end interference by shutting down the device. Turning it back on recreated the problem, suggesting a possible link.