Oliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, Deember 18, 2013
British Airways is to become the first airline in Europe to allow its customers to use handheld electronic gadgets throughout a flight.
Currently, passengers are permitted to use devices such as mobile phones, iPods and e-readers during the “cruise phase” – generally when the aircraft is above 10,000ft.
Passengers on BA flights will, from tomorrow, be allowed to use devices during taxi, take-off and landing, so long as their device is in "flight mode".
Its customers are already permitted to send and receive text messages, and make phone calls, after the plane has landed and left the runway.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ruled that smartphones and tablets can be safely used during take-off and landing. That ruling followed the publication of a report by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the key aviation authority in the US, suggesting that restrictions on the use of gadgets should be eased.
BA said it had demonstrated to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that the changes would still allow it to comply with existing safety rules and regulations. Other airlines can now be expected to follow suit.
However, some have suggested that relaxing the rules could lead to confusion or arguments among passengers and cabin crew about whether devices are in flight mode.
A poll conducted earlier this year by the website Sunshine.co.uk suggested that one in five British fliers already ignore the rules. The most common misdemeanour perpetrated by passengers was turning their phone on immediately after landing, rather than when the aircraft doors have been opened, and failing to switch their device off during take-off.
“We know that our customers want to use their handheld electronic devices more, so this will be very welcome news for them,” said 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.”