Phone makers are producing handsets that enable airline passengers to either listen to music or play games but many airlines do not allow the in-flight use of mobile phones.
Many recent cellular phones have a “flight mode’’ feature that turns off the radio function of the device for a safe flight and allows air travelers to use non-transmitting features such as providing music, games, dictionaries and digital cameras.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a U.S. civil aviation authority, basically leaves the issue at the discretion of each airline. “It is up to the airline to decide if they will allow cell phones to be used in this mode during flight,’’ it says. Airlines take different approaches.
“Regardless of whether your mobile phone is in flight mode or not, it is our policy to not allow the use of cellular phones during flights in accordance with the FAA in the U.S,’’ said Diana Chen, chairperson of EVA Air, headquartered in Taiwan.
“We require passengers to turn their mobile phones off. Phones in flight mode may not cause problems, but it is difficult to check every passenger’s phone to see whether it has the mode or not. We just apply the regulation to all,’’ a Lufthansa German Airlines official said.
The United Airlines and Emirate have the same policy.
American Airlines said flight mode is okay as long as it is not broadcasting a signal. Roy Disa, customer service official of Jet Airways based in India, also told The Korea Times that the company has “no problem’’ with wireless devices set in flight mode.
Korea’s two national flag carriers say no to the use of all types of cell phones.
“Some phones have the flight mode, but the aviation authority has not approved the function. So we require passengers to turn off those phones as well,’’ a Korean Air official said. An Asiana official also said, “Banning the use of cell phones on airborne planes is an FAA recommendation, and we are following it.’’
Mobile phone users and travel agencies say airlines should bring out a unified policy. Mobile phone makers should also be responsible for their products instead of hastily selling them without coordination with airlines.
“If airplanes accept the special function, the in-flight announcement needs to be changed to `Change your mobile into flight mode’ instead of the current, `Switch off your cellular phone,’’’ said Noh Hea-kil, manager of Hana Tour, the biggest travel agency in Korea.
Manufacturers say it’s up to each airline, so it’s each customer’s job to check whether the airline he or she travels with allows flight mode.
“Once flight mode is set up, there is no disturbing waves at all. It becomes a normal electronic tool. We need to promote this function so that airlines can understand the flight mode function better,’’ said Choi Su-yeon, a spokesperson of Samsung Electronics.
“We’ve introduced this function as customers demand it. For example, three airlines out of 10 say they’re okay with the function, then we can provide products with the function. Whether airlines accept it or not is up to themselves,’’ said Choi Joon-hyeok, spokesperson of LG Electronics.