Doors to automatic, iPad on
Air regulators are catching up with 21st-century reality
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 14 December 2013
Airline passengers in Europe can look forward to more relaxing journeys. At present, the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) is banned during critical stages of flight. But the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) this week has signalled a change of heart, allowing smartphones, tablets and e-readers to stay switched on. British Airways is first to relax its
What do the current rules say?
For flights to, from, and within Europe, all personal electronic devices must be turned off when the plane is taxiing, taking off, flying below 10,000 feet, or landing. The ban covers tablet computers, e-readers, MP3 players and game consoles. These devices radiate small amounts of electro-magnetic energy. It was feared that if everyone on board used them simultaneously, they might interfere with control systems and endanger the aircraft. But in October, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded PEDs posed no risk. Europe's safety regulators are falling into line.
No, except on BA. Each airline must seek permission from its national regulator, showing it has robust practices for making sure the relaxation can be achieved safely. It will involve piecemeal implementation – you could be a passenger on an airline that allows it one day, and banned by a different airline the next.
Can I use devices 'from gate to gate'?
Not quite. Everyone must put down their devices during the safety briefing. Cabin crew may require large devices, such as a particularly beefy tablet computer, to be stowed during take-off and landing. And the ban on using headphones that are not connected to the aircraft's entertainment system will remain in force while the aircraft is moving on the ground. That is to ensure that a passenger can hear cabin-crew instructions in an emergency.
There is one other rare occasion in which you may be asked to switch devices off: during automatic landings in poor visibility. In such circumstances the aircraft is entirely dependent on signals sent from the ground, and regulators want to eliminate any danger of interference.
Such events are rare; the FAA says one landing in 100 is affected, but others say the proportion is even smaller.
Will I be able to make phone calls and send SMS messages?
No. The CAA states: "Scientific research has shown that mobile phones can interfere with the normal operation of aircraft equipment and can also cause interference in pilot's headsets." Every device with the capacity to transmit must remain in "Flight Safe" mode, with two exceptions. Some aircraft are fitted with satellite transceivers that allow mobile phone use above 10,000 feet; if you are on such a flight, the crew will let you know. And on British Airways, a special dispensation enables passengers to make calls and send texts after landing, once the aircraft has turned off the main runway and it is taxiing to the arrival gate. This is already normal practice in the US.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
The most powerful passports in the world
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
The 10 Best hiking boots
Greece debt crisis Q&A: How will your Greek holiday be affected this summer?
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...
£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...