Doors to automatic, iPad on

Air regulators are catching up with 21st-century reality

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
policy.

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.

Starting today?

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us