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Electronic devices get green light on flights

Two of Australia's most popular air carriers were given the green light of approval yesterday under a new regulation set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) which allows passengers to use their personal electronic devices (PEDs) not only during the cruise phase of the flight but also during take-off and landing. The implementation of the new regulation allows passengers to leave their electronic devices switched on throughout the entire flight.

As the use of electronic devices increase in all aspects of life, the demand to be able to use these devices in flight has also become greater. This coupled with research that suggests that electromagnetic signals emitted from these devices are not as harmful as they were once thought to be prompted CASA to release an updated Airworthiness Bulletin (AWB 23-003) last Friday providing that air carriers would be able to allow the use of PEDs more broadly during flights.

Air carriers wishing to allow their passengers enjoyment of PEDs during taxiing, take-off and landing will have to apply to CASA for an exemption to the existing rules which prevented electronic devices being switched on until the flight was in cruise mode. Even once approval is received from CASA, air carriers will need to adhere to strict regulations regarding the management of the use of PEDs by passengers. The implementation of the new regulations by air carriers means that pilots and crew members will need to be trained in the management of passengers using the devices to minimise any potential risk they may cause.  This includes being able to recognise suspected or confirmed electromagnetic interference and manage any smoke or fire emitted from a PED.

AWB 23-003 sets out three broad categories of guidelines that air carriers will be required to comply with when implementing the new arrangement. These include:

  • The expanded use of PEDs in all phases of flight:
    • The assessment of the suitability of an aircraft for passengers to use PEDs more broadly than the cruise phase of the flight;
    • Guidance on establishing operational policy and procedures and training of pilots and cabin crew on dealing with PEDs as loose objects in the aircraft cabin.
  • Providing guidance on the treatment of PEDs as loose objects in the aircraft cabin; and
  • Providing guidance on the use of PEDs by passengers moving airside.
Although passengers will be allowed to keep their devices switched on during ascent and descent, they must be operating in flight mode. Passengers will not be permitted to use cellular data at any stage during the flight. Devices over 1kg in weight will remain subject to existing rules whereby they are required to be turned off and stowed during take-off and landing. Previous investigations by CASA found that unsecured devices over 1kg were a safety hazard and could be dangerous if they become loose during turbulence. The AWB requires air carriers to have procedures and policies in place to ensure that devices over 1kg are properly stowed and that smaller electronic devices that can remain operational during the flight are secured in some way.

Qantas was the first airline to make the application with Virgin Australia not far behind. With the new regulations in full swing, passengers travelling on either of these airlines can expect to use their small electronic devices uninterrupted from gate-to-gate on most domestic and short-haul international flights.

Jetstar, QantasLink and Tiger Australia have also confirmed that they will be submitting applications to CASA in order to allow them to extend the use of PEDs on their flights.

Similar regulations have been operating in the United States, Europe and New Zealand for some time. Now Australian passengers can experience the same conveniences as those around the world.



Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 27, 2014.

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