After lagging behind pretty much every other country in the world, some Chinese airlines are now allowing passengers to use their phones in flight mode instead of just tablets and laptops. Passengers celebrated by taking selfies in-flight and talking up the change on China’s Twitter-like site, Weibo.
Once upon a time (like, last week), travelers on Chinese airlines faced strict penalties for using cell phones in-flight, even if the devices were in flight mode. Anyone who was caught faced up to 10 days in detention for disturbing public order. In December, for example, three passengers were detained—one of them for five days simply for listening to music on his phone while the plane was taking off and landing. Laptops and tablets could still be used, just not cellphones.
Now, that rule is beginning to change. The Civil Aviation Administration of China lifted the ban on Thursday, leaving it up to individual airlines whether they wanted to allow cellphone use or not. Some airlines have already welcomed the change: China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, Hainan subsidiary Lucky Air, and Spring Airlines, which will allow cellphone use beginning in February.
Flyers took to China’s Twitter-like site, Weibo, to praise the change:
“Finally … I’ve flown around the world and it’s only Chinese airlines that ban the use of mobile phones in flight mode,” one user said, reported by the South China Morning Post. “We’ve lagged behind other countries for so many years and now this has become something to praise,” another user said.
Passengers shared selfies of themselves on the inaugural cellphone flights and so did the staff, posting photos and videos cellphone-wielding customers.