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BA lets you use phones, tablets in flight mode during takeoff

You won't have to turn your phone off if you fly with British Airways from tomorrow -- as long as it's in flight mode.

Good news if you're jetting off somewhere nice for Christmas -- from tomorrow, 19 December, British Airways will let you use phones, tablets and other devices during takeoff and landing, as long as you have flight mode turned on.

BA is the first airline in Europe to make the change, just a week after the European Aviation Safety Agency updated its guidelines on using gadgets in-flight. Other airlines have said they're assessing the situation.

It's just in time for BA's busiest day of the season, Friday 20 December, when 115,000 people will be pushing back their seats and starting their Christmas holidays.

"We know that our customers want to use their handheld electronic devices more, so this will be very welcome news for them," British Airways' flight training manager Captain Ian Pringle, told the Telegraph.

"The easing of restrictions will provide an average of 30 minutes' additional personal screen time. With around 300 people on a long-haul flight that will mean a combined total of approximately 150 hours extra viewing, reading or working."

You're currently only allowed to use non-transmitting electronic devices during the 'cruise phase' -- ie when the seatbelt signs are off in the middle of the flight, and the danger of your low-powered pocketable gadget confusing the gigantic aeroplane's hugely expensive and thoroughly tested componentry is even more negligible.

Regular fliers have long complained that the ban on using phones was nonsensical, as this clip from the pilot of The West Wing -- first shown over 14 years ago -- eloquently puts it:

Are you happy you won't have to turn your phone off any more? Or are you worried people might start to demand in-flight phone calls next? Taxi down to the comments section, or take a short haul over to our sunny Facebook page.

Update: The BBC reports US airline Delta says it'll ban phone calls, regardless of what American regulators permit, citing a customer survey. It'll be interesting to see if other airlines follow suit.