Domestic airlines to lift ban on phones

China is to lift a ban on the use of portable electronic devices on planes and allow airlines to make their own rules, the industry regulator said yesterday.

China is to lift a ban on the use of portable electronic devices on planes and allow airlines to make their own rules, the industry regulator said yesterday. That means passengers on Chinese airlines will soon be able to take pictures or enjoy in-flight Wi-Fi services on their smartphones.

The new regulation, to take effect from next month, asks domestic carriers to evaluate the impact of portable electronic devices on flights and come up with their own management policies, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

“I believe in the near future, passengers will be able to use portable electronic devices on Chinese airlines,” Zhu Tao, deputy director of the administration’s flight standards department, told a press conference in Beijing.

Currently, the use of mobile phones is prohibited on flights by Chinese carriers as are intercoms, remote-control toys and other devices with remote-control or radio transmitting equipment.

Anyone flouting the rules is subject to fines of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,612).

Shanghai-based Spring Airlines said yesterday that its passengers would be able to use mobile phones on flights from next year.

“It has been a global trend for air passengers to use smartphones in the air,” said spokesman Zhang Wu’an.

However, airlines will have to first finish an evaluation, submit an application and get agreement from the administration before allowing passengers to use phones on flights, Zhang said. “Before that, passengers on flights with Chinese airlines still have to obey the current regulation to turn off mobile phones during flights.”

Air China has yet to be told of the new regulation, a press officer with the nation’s flag carrier said, but will carry out the stipulations and requirements of the administration.

Other major domestic airlines, including China Eastern and China Southern, declined to comment.

Many foreign carriers have allowed the use of smartphones during flights in the wake of the popularity of in-flight Wi-Fi services.

Most stipulate that phones must be turned off during take-off and landing, but can then be shifted to flight mode.

At present, in-flight Wi-Fi services are available on a majority of airlines in the United States, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong. More than 78 percent of overseas flights feature Wi-Fi functions.

That compares with only about 2 percent of airlines in China, the world’s second-largest air-travel market.

The new regulation will boost the development of in-flight Wi-Fi services among Chinese airlines, Zhang said. 

He said Spring Airlines has equipped two aircraft with Wi-Fi facilities and will launch an Internet service soon.

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