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Qantas and Virgin allow device use from gate to gate

Taking off no longer requires 'switching off', as Qantas and Virgin allow passengers to use their devices for the duration of their flight.


Update, August 26 at 10.30 a.m. AEST: Qantas and Virgin have now confirmed that their customers will be able to use devices from gate to gate as of today.

Passengers on Qantas and Virgin can now enjoy uninterrupted access to their electronic devices from gate to gate, thanks to an easing of restrictions on using devices in the air.

Devices lighter than 1 kg -- such as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers -- can now be used in flight mode for the duration of the flight, though heavier devices such as laptops will still need to be stowed.

"Qantas has conducted rigorous testing to assess the impacts of electronic devices on the safe operation of aircraft," said Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi. "We are confident that these devices are safe to be turned on, but in flight mode, for the duration of each flight."

Qantas stipulates that devices can be used when boarding via aerobridge or walking on the tarmac, that they will need to be held or placed in the seat pocket during take-off and landing, and that flight mode needs to be switch on once the doors are closed. Texting and calling mid-air will still be off the cards.

Both airlines announced the change following the release this month of a bulletin by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority which offered guidance on how device usage could be safely introduced for the duration of domestic and international flights.

According to the aptly-titled "Airworthiness Bulletin" [PDF], "With the expanded use of PEDs [personal electronic devices] e.g. ebook readers, tablet computers etc. in virtually all sectors of the community, the demand to extend that use during flight has increased".

While there were previously no specific CASA regulations prohibiting the use of PEDs in-flight, the regulator stipulated that airlines needed to prioritise safety. This included ensuring they don't interfere with the plane's equipment and making sure they don't become heavy electronic projectiles if there is any turbulence mid-flight (hence the 1 kilogram stowing rule).

"Experience in Australia and other countries has identified that PEDs can be a significant hazard if not secured in certain phases of flight or in cases of turbulence," the CASA bulletin read. "Injuries have been reported by passengers being struck by PEDs during turbulence events."