Phones can stay online on flights next year, says SAA


The outdated rule that phones be switched off will be scrapped in the first quarter of 2019

South African Airways (SAA) passengers will no longer be required to keep their cellphones switched off on its planes from early next year.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali told Times Select the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had given the airline permission to stop applying the outdated rule of switching off phones.

“We are in the process of implementing this concept where passengers do not need to switch off their cellphones during takeoff, turbulence and landing,” said Tlali.

“Cellphones will be put on flight mode during these phases. SAA is currently amending the safety video, safety pamphlets and its in-flight magazine to reflect the changes.”

The changes will kick in in the first quarter of 2019.

This means phones can be kept on aeroplane mode throughout the flight, which allows passengers to use the internet if there is wifi available on the plane. At the moment, SAA, FlySafair and Kulula do not have wifi , but Mango does have in-flight wifi that customers can pay for, as do some British Airways flights. Several overseas airlines offer in-flight wifi.

CAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said their regulations did not prohibit the use of electronic devices on board.

He explained that previously, there had been global concern that phone signals would interfere with aircraft signals and equipment.

“As a result, the use of electronic devices was prohibited particularly during the critical phases of a flight, ie during takeoff and landing.”

Ledwaba said modern technology now safely allowed electronic devices on board and CAA regulations reflected that.

“In a nutshell, current regulations afford all operators the right to allow their passengers to utilise electronic devices provided that their aircraft have the capability to accommodate the use of electronic devices. Or in cases where the operator’s aircraft is ancient, they have modified the aircraft to allow the use of electronic gadgets.”

Ledwaba said it was not up to the regulator to decide on behalf of airlines to modify an aircraft. “The decision to prohibit the use of electronic gadgets, therefore, may be, for various reasons, a decision of the operator.”



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