Australian airlines approve phone use on flights

passengers on phones before flighty Qantas and Virgin Australia clients were before asked to switch off their phones

Travellers on Qantas and Virgin Australia will be able to use their mobile phones and other electronic devices during flights from Tuesday.

The new rule applies to international and domestic passengers flying the two Australian airlines.

It will affect tablets, e-readers and small game consoles, as well as smartphones.

Passengers were previously asked to switch off these types of devices during flights for safety reasons.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said it approved applications from both Australian airlines late on Monday.

Some airlines in the United States, Europe and New Zealand already allow passengers to keep their phones on during flights.

Start Quote

At some point crew will ask passengers to put their electronic devices on flight mode, probably before the safety briefing is given”

End Quote Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Peter Gibson, spokesperson

Aircraft are now designed and manufactured so that smartphones and other electronic devices do not interfere with flights.

'Gate to gate'

The new rule for the Australian airlines means passengers can continue to play games or draft emails on their phones during take off and landing.

Larger devices such as laptops, however, will still need to be stowed away during takeoff and landing due to risks of turbulence, said CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson.

"The change does mean that passengers will be allowed to speak on their phones from gate to gate though," Mr Gibson added.

"But at some point crew will ask passengers to put their electronic devices on flight mode, probably before the safety briefing is given."

Guy on phone in airport CASA said other airlines in Australia would probably follow suit soon

Once a smartphone is in its so-called flight mode, it means passengers can no-longer send text messages or make calls.

Next step

Mr Gibson said the next step for the two Australian airlines would be the introduction of technology that would allow internet and voice call connections in-flight.

Satellite phone connections have been enabled on flights for many years, but the costs are high.

Newer technology is available to make more affordable in-flight calls and connect to the internet during flights, however neither Qantas nor Virgin have made that investment yet.

"Trials have taken place with that technology with Qantas between Sydney and Melbourne," Mr Gibson said.

"But there are a lot of costs involved and it will be a commercial decision for the airlines as to whether they can recover those costs."

CASA said other airlines in Australia were likely to follow suit and apply to for permission to allow passengers to use some electronic devices during flights.

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