EU edges toward flight use of tablets, smartphones

December 9, 2013
A man works on his iPad aboard a flight to Moline, Illinois, on October 29, 2012

Long overdue in an increasingly connected world—or the end of a precious oasis of peace—the European Union on Monday took a first step to allowing expanded use of smartphones and tablets on aircraft.

The EU's Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) judged would now be able to use portable electronic devices if they are put in "Flight Mode," that is not transmitting, throughout the journey, from take-off to landing.

The next step would be for EASA to see if such devices can be put to full use and connected in transmission mode to the Internet, EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said, adding that he had called for the review to be speeded up.

Up to now, airlines require all devices without exception to be switched off for take-off and landing to prevent possible interference with aircraft electronic systems, a safety risk.

Those devices equipped with "Flight Mode" can then be switched on but those without have to remain off.

"Today we are taking a first step to safely expand the use of in-flight electronics during taxiing, take-off and landing," Kallas said.

"Next we want to look at how to connect to the network while on board," he said, adding that new guidance should come next year.

The airlines will have to decide as an issue of service and passenger comfort whether to continue current practice or take the next step, which may not please everyone, he said.

"Is this the end of the last silent place in the world?" Kallas asked, noting: "After this change ... it is a new reality."

Air travel has increased almost as fast as has use of smartphones and tablets, driving demands that passengers be able to use them freely to stay connected to the Internet while travelling.

Die-hard opponents argue that airline travel provides one of the few havens from the onslaught of the modern interconnected world and should stay that way.

Explore further: What a turn-off: why your phone must be powered down on flights

Related Stories

US eases rules on electronic devices on planes (Update 3)

October 31, 2013

Passengers on American airlines won't have to "turn off all electronic devices" anymore—they'll be able to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music from gate to gate under new guidelines from the Federal ...

In-flight phones: Others likely to follow FAA lead

November 1, 2013

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says it is relaxing restrictions on the use of smartphones and other electronics inside flights by American carriers. Passengers are still barred from making calls or downloading data ...

Gov't weighs permitting cellphone calls on planes (Update)

November 21, 2013

Rules against making cellphone calls during airline flights are "outdated," and it's time to change them, federal regulators said Thursday, drawing immediate howls of protest from flight attendants, airline officials and ...

Recommended for you

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.