European flight safety regs: Electronics allowed

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BERLIN (AP) — Passengers on European airlines may soon be able to use portable electronics including cell phones and tablet computers any time during flights, under new safety guidelines issued Friday.

The Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency said that starting immediately, European airlines can, at their own discretion, allow passengers to leave electronics on the entire flight, without the putting them into "airplane mode."

"We're basically opening the door where, in theory, you'll be able to continue making your phone call through the gate throughout the flight ... like you would on a train," spokesman Ilias Maragakis told The Associated Press.

The new EASA guidelines leave it up to airlines what portable electronic devices they will allow and how they will allow them to be used. EASA also cautioned that even within airlines, the devices allowed could depend upon the aircraft type.

Airlines will also have to certify that their planes aren't affected by transmission signals before they allow devices to be used.

"Basically we are saying you can have it switched on, and it's up to the airline first to allow you," Maragakis said.

EASA's previous guidance, from last year, allowed electronic devices for almost the whole flight, so long as they were not transmitting any signals by being put into "airplane mode."

Similarly, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last year lifted its own restrictions on the use of most personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings — but not cellphone calls, which fall under the Federal Communications Commission. Passengers were also told to keep the devices on "airplane mode."

Before that, the FAA long had barred the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) because of concern they could cause electronic interference with aircraft systems during landings, the phase of flight when accidents are most likely to occur.

Maragakis said the new guidance applies to any European-based carrier, no matter where the flight originates.