Flight alteration: how the smartphone is invading your air travel

Flight alteration: how the smartphone is invading your air travel

Using a phone during take-off used to be the stuff of fairy tales. Now it's reality.

The phrase that brings dread at the start of a flight: "Please turn off all electronic devices during take-off and landing. Limited use is allowed during the flight."

That wasn't so bad when all you had to do was switch off your Gameboy for a bit (although the lack of saving RUINED Super Mario Land) but nowadays, in our smartphone-addicted times, it's akin to being imprisoned in the 1980s for umpteen hours.

It means flights are dead time, with no communication with the outside world, limited ability to work or play and during take-off and landing you were all but forced to read the in-flight magazine, which is a fate we wouldn't wish on anyone.

There were reasons for this, beyond perhaps the hope that passengers might resort to overpriced alcohol in desperation.

Take-off and landing are the most dangerous parts of a flight. If anything's going to go wrong it's likely to happen during your ascent or descent, so airline staff want you to pay attention to the safety information and not be distracted.

There were also concerns that electronic devices might interfere with radio frequencies used by the cockpits navigation and communication equipment or degrade the signal strength of landing systems.

tablet on plane
No, please don't make me turn it off!

The times they are a-changin'

But things are finally changing, as it turns out that electronics might not be such an issue after all. Some US airlines recently carried out a series of tests which showed that electronic devices don't actually affect a plane's systems and restrictions are being lessened as a result.

What does that mean for passengers? Well first of all you may soon be able to use phones, tablets, e-readers and other handheld devices during take-off and landing.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority has already allowed BA to make the change and other airlines might soon follow.

This means on British Airways flights you no longer have to turn electronics off before boarding or before the descent, instead simply switching them to aeroplane mode and they can stay on for the duration of the flight.

That applies to any handheld item that has a flight safe mode, though larger devices such as laptops can still only be used when the plane is cruising, which is more to do with keeping the seating area clear in the event of an accident.

The relaxation of restrictions also means less downtime as you'll actually be able to use your phone and tablet during take-off and landing, giving you an average of 30 minutes extra use on every flight.

It's a change which airlines seem to be happy about too. Madhu Unnikrishnan, a media relations manager for Virgin America, told us that "the FAA [previously] restricted the use of personal electronic devices (PED's) during take off and landing, and we complied with the rules. We are pleased that the agency has relaxed the rules to allow the use of PED's from gate to gate."

The fact that people are using personal electronics more and have more freedom to use them has also played into a rethink on in-flight entertainment.

For example Lufthansa has created a service which will stream movies, music and other content straight to passengers phones and tablets, removing the need to have screens built into planes and improving the quality of what you're watching - if you invest in a new smartphone or tablet with a decent screen, of course.

BA plane


Even better, Wi-Fi is now available on some flights. For example BA offers it through its currently rather exclusive and limited OnAir service, keeping passengers connected to their world for the duration of a flight.

Source : techradar[dot]com

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