Some Chinese Airlines Now Allow In-Flight Cellphone Use

by Enoch

With more and more people traveling with smartphones and other personal electronic devices, policies surrounding the use of such devices onboard has also been evolving. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t use your phone during takeoff and landing, even if it was in airplane mode. Now, many airlines allow passengers to use their devices from gate to gate, as long as the cellular function is turned off.

One place where the policies really haven’t kept up in China; Chinese airlines have long had a rule prohibiting the use of cell phones onboard…period. It’s not necessarily enforced all the time, though in my experience flight attendants on Chinese airlines have been pretty on top of it. Passengers are free to load up their iPad and laptop with in-flight entertainment, and even use the in-flight Wi-Fi. However, cell phones are completely off-limits. People have even been detained for breaking the law.

Earlier this year, there were reports that China is finally ready to do away with the ban on cellphones onboard. On January 16, 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China finally released a report detailing their new attitude towards in-flight cellphone use. The report, which title roughly translates to “Report on Evaluation of Onboard Use of Portable Electronic Devices” (機上便攜式電子設備使用評估指南), does require airlines to conduct a review to ensure devices do not interfere with aircraft electronics. However, as long as they want to and believe it to be safe, commercial airlines now have the freedom to allow the use of portable electronic devices onboard.

Chinese Eastern is one of the handful of Chinese airlines that now allows onboard use of cellphones. Source: China Eastern

Chinese Eastern is one of the handful of Chinese airlines that now allows onboard use of cellphones. Source: China Eastern

According to HK01 (article in Chinese), two Chinese airlines have already put their newfound autonomy to use. Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines have begun allowing passengers to use their cellphones onboard, effective January 18, 2018. Shanghai-based Spring Airlines has also announced that they will be enabling cell phone use “early this year.”

This will no doubt bring a world of convenience to passengers of all kind. However, perhaps more importantly, business travelers can now stay connected even while in the air with their phones. With cell phone so ubiquitous, I imagine that airlines also welcome this change; the number of devices that could use in-flight Wi-Fi just grew dramatically, and can foreseeably generate some extra revenue for airlines.

While there are only two airlines that currently have plans to set cell phones free onboard, I can’t imagine other airlines are that far behind; it will be extremely uncompetitive to stick with the cellphone ban. This is awesome news indeed!

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kobe bryant January 18, 2018 - 5:09 am

China Eastern A350 is soooooooooooooooooo beautiful….

mike murphy January 18, 2018 - 8:40 am

cell phones can get a signal airborne ?

Enoch January 18, 2018 - 8:42 am

Unlikely. Though this ban on cellphone applied to its use entirely. So you couldn’t even turn it on, even if it was just airplane mode.

Stanley January 21, 2018 - 8:58 am

Xiamen Airlines, Air China, Lucky Air, and China Southern Airlines will also follow suit.


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