Airlines to pursue personal electronic device use gate-to-gate

Passengers may soon be able to use their phones, e-readers, tablets and laptops from the moment they set foot on a plane all the way through to disembarking at their destination.

At present, all electronic devices must be switched off - even if they are in flight mode - during take-off and landing. 

The changes are part of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's recently announced updates to key guidelines.

It's an opportunity airlines are keen to pursue.

"We would welcome a review of the use of personal electronic devices gate-to-gate as we believe it will enhance customer experience," said Virgin Australia's spokesman Nathan Scholz.

To offer the service, Australian airlines must first satisfy stringent criteria. 

This will include testing aircraft systems' tolerance for the interference these devices can cause both to the plane's antennae and components such as cables, wires and looms.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the company had already lodged an application.

“This is something Qantas has been actively pursuing for some time, following similar moves in other countries.


"Qantas is working with CASA to enable customers to keep their personal electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets, e-book readers and music players powered on, but in flight mode, through all phases of flight, including on the ground.”

All airlines are expected to submit applications in the coming weeks. It is understood CASA will review the applications simultaneously.

The extended guidelines will bring Australian airlines up to speed with their international competitors. 

The US Federal Aviation Administration updated their personal electronic device guidelines in October last year. The European Aviation Safety Agency published similar changes in December.

Ethiad and Emirates airlines offer access to the internet during flights through Australian airspace once the plane is cruising and above 10,000 feet.

Several US air travel companies, such as United Continental Holdings, US Airways Group and Delta Airlines, have been offering access to the internet for years.

But Australians wielding personal electronic devices won't be able to call, text or use the internet on their own phones in the air just yet.

While the local guideline revisions will only allow devices to be used in flight mode, this may soon change.

“While there are no current plans to extend the wi-fi service to enable internet connectivity, we recognise technology and customer needs continue to evolve rapidly, and continue to evaluate a spectrum of opportunities,” said the Qantas spokeswoman.

Installing wi-fi capability is costly. In 2012, Qantas ran a wi-fi trial in their A380 aircraft for several months but reported that customer take-up was "extremely low".



This article Airlines to pursue personal electronic device use gate-to-gate was originally published in Brisbane Times.