For years China has had an annoying policy when it comes to the use of personal electronics inflight. Specifically, you’re not allowed to use your smartphones or tablets on Chinese airlines, even if they’re in airplane mode, and even during the flight. It’s a strange policy, since nowadays some Chinese airlines offer inflight wifi, but you can only use it on a laptop or larger device.
I remember the first time I experienced this — I figured I was misunderstanding the flight attendant, and explained that my phone was in airplane mode (I figured that was the issue). The flight attendant explained it needed to be off completely, and for the entire flight. So you can’t use your iPhone to take pictures, play games, listen to music, connect to wifi, etc.
It’s my understanding that this is a way outdated policy, and that back in the day their concern was that people wouldn’t keep their phone in airplane mode, etc. I guess here in the US we don’t have that much room to judge, since up until a few years ago phones had to be completely off for takeoff and landing, while now they’re okay with airplane mode. China’s policy up until now had similar logic, but it just applied to the entire flight.
A Xiamen Air flight attendant with a sign telling people to turn off smartphones & tablets
There was some good news on this front last September. As I wrote about at the time, China’s Civil Aviation Administration was planning on revising their aviation regulations, to allow passengers to finally use smartphones and tablets inflight. However, as you’d expect with any government policy change, this wasn’t enacted overnight.
It looks like we’re now seeing the first signs of this new policy. Per @ChinaAvReview, as of January 18, 2018, China Eastern will become the first Chinese airline to allow the use of smartphones and tablets inflight, assuming they’re in airplane mode. These devices will be allowed during all phases of flight, including taxi, takeoff, and landing.
This is a fantastic development, and now that one airline has revised their policy, here’s to hoping that other airlines quickly match.