Travellers will soon be permitted to use electronic devices during both the takeoff and landing phases of a flight, following discussions to change aviation regulations in Europe.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will publish guidelines at the end of November advising airlines that small electronic devices such as e-readers, tablets and smartphones are safe to use during all phases of a flight, even during takeoff and landing.
It will, however, stipulate that the devices must remain in flight mode, and larger devices such as laptops should still be stowed for takeoff and landing.
The European Commission has gone further, saying that once an aircraft is in the air, mobile data services should be allowed to be enabled, opening up opportunities for airlines to install 3G and 4G wireless services in their aircraft.
This would allow passengers to send and receive text messages and make calls once an aircraft has reached an altitude of 3000 metres, so not to interfere with ground communications. Users would likely be charged by their network rather than the airline, and would pay their standard roaming fees to do so.
Ofcom proposed in August that such services should be used by UK airlines, with the communications watchdog recommending the freeing up of the wireless spectrum for the use of satellite-based internet services on planes, trains and boats.
The EC maintains that it is an airline's choice as to whether it chooses to take advantage of the rules, and reminds passengers that airline policy dictates whether they can use their devices and that it is not a passenger's right to do so.
EC spokesman Ryan Heath added: "It's up to the airlines, but I can imagine a number of ways this could work. You could have quiet zones and communications zones, like many trains have today. Or limit the new possibilities to longer flights or to certain periods of the flight – for example to avoid sleep disruption."
The new regulations put the EU in line with the US; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently enacted a similar ruling.
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