The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is following in the footsteps of the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by easing restrictions on the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) by passengers during flights.
New guidelines, which are due to be published before the end of November, will allow passengers on European airlines to use their tablets, smartphones, eReaders and MP3 players for the full duration of the flight as long as the device's signal transmitting functions have been suspended by setting them to Airplane Mode.
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Laptop computers and other larger devices will be the exception, not because of any potential interference with aircraft systems, but because they are considered too bulky so will still need to be stowed during taxiing, take-off and landing.
Looking ahead, the EASA says it is also looking at "new ways to certify the use of mobile phones on-board aircraft to make phone calls." Such a scenario would no doubt be a double-edged sword, with flights likely to be a whole lot more tolerable for those who can't stand to be out of phone contact for more than a minute, but much less tolerable for those seated next to them.