Europe set to allow full mobile use on flights

Two decisions by policy makers in Europe to allow mobile use during flights.

European lawmakers have agreed to let people use electronic devices during a flight's take-off and landing, whilst letting airlines permit full use of mobiles, smartphones and tablets for the rest of the journey.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was to publish guidance this month allowing complete use of mobiles during flights as long as flight mode was switched on. But yesterday, the European Commission said it was to allow users to run their mobile devices, including 3G and 4G usage, throughout a flight, except for take-off and landing.

Airlines were already able to allow 2G use during continental flights, but the European Commission agreed the standard wasn't practical for sending and receiving large amounts of data, as customers now demand. The new rules will only apply once an aircraft is above 3,000 metres, so as to not interfere with ground-based services.

The EU decision does not give passengers a right to use their devices, but instead lets airlines decide whether or not to open up mobile usage.

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"This EU decision gives airlines the opportunity to allow their customers to use their smartphones and tablets in-flight. We're saying there is no reason why passengers should be prevented from using their mobiles and their tablets during flights (when the plane is above 3,000m). Airlines remain in charge about whether they allow this during their flights or not," said European Commission spokesperson Ryan Heath.

"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 US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced it would allow people to use devices throughout the duration of a flight, but only in safe mode.

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