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Portable Electronic Devices

09 December 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 09 December 2013

Passengers will be able to keep their mobile phones switched on in airplane mode during flights, under new guidance published today by the EU's Aviation Safety Agency.


What are Portable Electronic Devices (PED)?



Portable Electronic Devices (PED) include digital cameras, smartphones, tablets, e-readers, etc. The guidance issued by the EU's Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) refers to all PEDs as long as they are not transmitting. That means they are in Airplane Mode or Flight Mode (hereafter Flight Mode). Transmissions such as connection to mobile phone network, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc. should be switched off.

I heard that the EU is expanding the safe use of PEDs on board - what has changed?



The new European safety guidance establishes that passengers may use PEDs switched on in Flight Mode during all phases of the flight, unless flight crew or cabin crew instructs them otherwise.


Before this change, the safety guidance stated that passengers could use their PEDs in Flight Mode (non-transmitting) in-flight, but not during taxiing, take-off and landing.


Can I use my PED on board now in flight mode? Do I have to wait?



The EU's Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has given the airlines updated guidance on how to expand the use of PED's safely in all phases of flight.


The process to implement this will vary among airlines. They will need to adapt their operating procedures, but many will be expected to do so in coming weeks.

Will I always be able to use my PED in Flight Mode on board?



Safety always comes first. At certain times the flight crew may instruct passengers to turn off their devices. Passengers must always respect safety instructions from the crew on safety briefings or other issues.

What about devices in transmitting mode? Can I use my PED onboard to send emails, texts etc?



Not yet, but EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas has asked EASA to accelerate a safety review of the use of transmitting devices on board, with updated guidance to be published in 2014.


For the moment, all restrictions on use of PEDs in transmitting mode (including mobile phones) on-board aircraft continue to apply. PEDs many only be used in transmitting mode to connect to the network for calls or email in aircraft which are specifically equipped with a safety certified on-board system. Even in those cases, connection is only allowed during the cruising phase of the flight; it takes place via the on-board system, not via the ground network. Airlines will decide the conditions for access, notably the cost of connection. For the moment, few aircraft are yet equipped but such system but this may be expected to expand in the coming years. In all cases, passengers should rely on the cabin crew to inform them on the aircraft's connectivity capabilities.


What about making phone calls? Wouldn't that be very annoying on board?



The safe use of mobile phones would be part of the review on transmitting devices. It will be for individual airlines to develop practices that will be in line with what their customers want. Airlines may impose limitations on voice calls for courtesy reasons.

Is the new policy safe?



Yes, the policy is based on analysis performed by experts from all aviation domains including airlines, aircraft manufactures, pilot associations and PED manufacturers.


Is it mandatory for an airline to apply the new policy?



No. Any airline may opt for a more restrictive policy on the use of PEDs. Any restrictions on the use of PEDs by passengers that may apply are at the discretion of the airline.


Can the cabin crew or flight crew ask passengers not to use their PEDs?



Yes. Passengers must at all times follow cabin crew and flight crew instructions.


How will the cabin crew or flight crew ensure all PEDs are in Flight Mode?



A safe flight should be everyone's priority. It may not be feasible for cabin crew or flight crew to physically check that all passengers have switched their devices to Flight Mode. Passengers are obliged to follow cabin crew and flight crew instructions at all times.


What do foreign airlines do? Does the new policy apply to all airlines operating in Europe?



Non EU airlines follow the PED regulations of their country's civil aviation authority. The updated EU guidance applies only to European airlines.