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Europe relaxes gadget restrictions on all flights

James Temperton
30 Sep 2014
British Airways plane - image courtesy Flickr user BriYYZ
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Devices no longer required to be in flight safe mode but it will be up to individual airlines to decide what they'll allow

Phones, tablets and other bleeping beeping devices can now be used when cavorting through the skies in the EU without enabling flight safe mode. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has relaxed rules to ensure that people can use their devices at all times, although it will be up to individual airlines to decide what they will allow.

Rules on using electronic devices on flights have become confusing in recent years with different airlines having different policies. But the EASA warns that the changes might not make what you can and cannot do any clearer.

"Of course, it is up to each airline to allow the use of PEDs [portably electronic devices] or not. In order to do this, airlines will have to go through an assessment process, ensuring aircraft are not affected in any way by the transmission of signals from the PEDs," a statement explained.

Changes to regulations could one day lead to so-called 'gate to gate' communication, with passengers able to use their phones to make calls and browse the internet for the entire flight. In June UK-based satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat announced that it was building an EU-wide network to provide in-flight Wi-Fi. The project, which is similar to networks already available in the USA, will be completed by the end of 2016.

Airlines wanting to let passengers use devices without enabling flight safe mode will have to go through an assessment process to make sure that no equipment will be affected. It will then be up to the individual airlines to interpret and apply the new regulations. The EASA said that some airlines may be "more restrictive" and that some airlines may even have different rules for different aircraft.

People are still advised to check the airline's websites prior to the flight and to listen to announcements from cabin crew about safe use of electronic devices on board.

The most recent changes follow a 2013 ruling that made it possible to use devices for the entire duration of a flight in the EU so long as it was in flight safe mode. In October last year the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also relaxed rules on the use of electronic devices during flights.

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