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Gate-to-Gate Use of Gadgets Approved for Qantas, Virgin Australia Flights

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|Aug 26|magazine5 min read

A new policy has been approved regarding the use of electronic devices during take-off and touch down of flights in Australia. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) policy applies to domestic and short-haul Virgin Australia flights and all domestic and international Qantas flights.

CASA’s main concern regarding device use during these times in the flight is safety – and not just because passengers’ electronics might interfere with the plane’s. In November 2013, a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney experienced extreme turbulence during the decent into the Sydney Airport. The turbulence caused devices to go flying, and two passengers were injured in the incident.

Testing was done on Qantas and Virgin Australia airplanes to make sure that there truly was no interference from passenger devices.

 “We had to do extensive testing to prove that the phones wouldn’t impact any of the aircraft systems,” said Alan Milne, head of engineering with Qantas. “Now that testing has been completed and there was no impact at all. Until Qantas was happy we weren’t going to let these be in operation.”

Australia is just a step behind the US, Europe and most recently New Zealand, as these countries already approved similar policies for their own airlines. The policy includes the use of tablets, e-book readers, MP3 players and smartphones during a flight’s taxi, take-off and landing stages. However, devices still must be used in “flight mode.”

Bigger electronics like laptops will still need to be safely stowed during these times. CASA’s policy on laptops states that devices with "a mass more than 1kg or are of a size that would impede egress" are headed for the overhead bin or any other "approved stowage location.”

Business travellers have considered the new policy a huge win. Those on short trips where non-flying time makes up a large part of a passenger’s time on the plane can now work through from gate-to-gate when travelling for a meeting or conference.