EASA Follows FAA Lead: Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft to Be Expanded to Taxi, Takeoff and Landing in Europe

You may soon use this “smartphone” aboard flights in Europe from gate to gate, but you may not place telephone calls — yet. Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Following the decision which was announced two weeks ago from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, the European Aviation Safety Agency released an official announcement which will eventually allow the expansion of the usage of certain portable electronic devices to be used throughout all phases of a flight  — including taxi, takeoff and landing — on aircraft operated by airlines based in Europe.

Current rules dictate that portable electronic devices may only be used when the aircraft is flying at an altitude above 10,000 feet during a flight.

The guidance of this amended policy is expected to be published sometime by the end of this month.

The part of the official announcement which concerns me pertains to the following statement:

“In the long term, the Agency is looking at new ways to certify the use of mobile phones on-board aircraft to make phone calls. EASA recognises the wide proliferation of personal electronic devices and the wish of the travelling public to use them everywhere.”

To me, there is a difference between the allowance of the operation of portable electronic devices versus permitting passengers to place telephone calls during a flight.

I realize that there is a precedent for allowing telephone calls during a flight. I do remember when airplanes were equipped with Airfone — a telephone which could be used during a flight — by either Verizon or GTE. The rates were $3.99 per minute plus a connection fee of $3.99 — which equated to eight dollars for that first minute. I used the Airfone service exactly once for a very abrupt telephone call because I needed to update someone with important information.

The high cost of using Airfone deterred many passengers from using that service. When someone did use it, it was usually only for a few minutes at best — hardly an inconvenience to fellow passengers.

Despite the rate increases implemented by Gogo back in December of 2012, the cost to use that service is a fraction of what Airfone used to cost. Although FlyerTalk members have had issues accessing the Internet with services such as Gogo while they were passengers aboard airplanes during flights, it is still an option to communicate with people on the ground below.

By the way, Airfone was acquired by Gogo last year — and according to one FlyerTalk discussion launched earlier today, GoGo Announces WiFi Talk and Text.

I would support the used of “texting” using a mobile telephone or tablet. I might even relent and say that telephone calls can be permitted during a flight for a fee bordering on exorbitant to discourage passengers from engaging in long conversations. However, the last thing that I want during a flight is to hear a one-sided conversation about some business transaction loudly announced by some buffoon who has no respect or consideration for the peace and quiet of his or her fellow passengers — especially if I am attempting to relax after a long day; or if I did not get enough sleep the night before; or if I had experienced some horrific delays.

You may as well seat me next to a crying baby. It can be that irritating.

Apparently, I am not alone with that feeling. Back in December of 2004, FlyerTalk member nmenaker asked “What do you think about having CELL phones allowed in flight”? The majority of FlyerTalk members back then were against that idea.

Then again — in a similar vein — there may be some FlyerTalk members who may regret that the rules pertaining to the use of portable electronic devices have been relaxed. For example, FlyerTalk member jsbh wants to know “How much would you pay to shut lil Skippy’s device up?

Anyway — as I posted here at The Gate on October 31, 2013 — I believe this change in policy has been long overdue. Many airlines based in the United States — such as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines for example — now currently allow certain portable electronic devices to be operated aboard aircraft during those times when the aircraft is not flying at an altitude above 10,000 feet.

As with the decision from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, FlyerTalk members are excited about the official announcement from the European Aviation Safety Agency — saying that it is good news; and that it is “sad how long it took for this to happen.”

How do you feel about this trend towards relaxing the use of portable electronic devices aboard an airplane during a flight?

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