You May Soon Be Able to Use Your Smartphone While Flying With a Chinese Carrier

Sep 19, 2017

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The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration’s latest change in policy will affect the more than 487 million passengers who travel through the country each year. On Monday, the country’s aviation authority announced that it will change its strict — and quirky — policy that bans passengers from using their mobile devices during flight, even if it’s in airplane mode.

According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese airlines will now have the choice of whether or not they will allow passengers to use their mobile devices while in the air. Currently, all Chinese carriers are required by the government to ban the use of devices, such as phones, while flying in their metal. However, among the new changes announced on Monday, the choice of whether or not to allow the use of phones will be up to each individual airline.

TPG’s Nick Ellis experienced the strange policy first-hand when he flew in business class on Xiamen Air’s 787 from Seattle (SEA) to Shenzhen (SZX). When he started using his phone to listen to music, a flight attendant informed him of the policy and offered a velvet pouch to store his phone for the duration of the flight. He was lucky, though. In February, three passengers were detained by Beijing police after using their phones during flight.

xiamen pouch
Xiamen Air’s business-class amenity kit features a purple velvet pouch for your phone (top left).

With the new regulations, Chinese carriers will be required to update their policies by the end of 2019. Hopefully many of the carriers will take to allowing passengers to use their phones — at least when on airplane mode. Presumably, it would be hard for a carrier that doesn’t allow phone usage to compete with one that does — at least as far as passenger experience is concerned. Until each airline implements its own policy, we recommend bringing a laptop or tablet with downloaded content in order to ensure you’re entertained during your flight.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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