British Airways claims to be the first airline to take advantage of European ruling
From today, British Airways (BA) passengers will be able to use personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and e-readers during taxiing, take-off and landing, claiming to be the first European airline to take advantage of a recent ruling by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The EASA said last month that some electronics are safe to use throughout a flight, so long as “flight mode” is enabled, but the ruling does not cover bulkier items such as laptops.
The agency’s ruling brought Europe in-line with the US, which has allowed passengers to use smaller electronic items since November. BA still had to seek permission from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), but it was able to convince the regulator that the changes will comply with all existing safety rules and regulations.
“We know that our customers want to use their handheld electronic devices more, so this will be very welcome news for them,” says Captain Ian Pringle, British Airways’ flight training manager. “The easing of restrictions will provide an average of 30 minutes additional personal screen time. With around 300 people on a long-haul flight that will mean a combined total of approximately 150 hours extra viewing, reading or working.
“We are incredibly pleased to be the first airline in Europe to introduce these changes which will be of great benefit to our customers on any British Airways flight anywhere in the world.”
Future phone calls?
Passengers are still prohibited from using their mobile phones in-flight through 3G and 4G connections, but the European Commission (EC) says it sees no reason why they shouldn’t be able to use them on on-board small cell services, once the aircraft has reached an altitude in excess of 3,000 metres.
The Commission approved the use of 2G services in 2008, and there are currently 200 European aircraft equipped with the functionality, although GSM networks are impractical for sending large amounts of data. It will be up to airlines to choose whether or not to offer 3G and 4G to customers, and whether they will offer voice, SMS or data services.
Last year, Virgin Atlantic announced plans to let passengers make in-flight phone calls, send texts and access the mobile Internet. Industry services indicate that SMS and email are of greater interest to passengers than voice, although research by flight comparison website Skyscanner suggests that 86 percent of flyers are against the use of in-flight mobile phone use altogether.
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