The ban on using smartphones when flying with Chinese airlines has officially been removed with multiple airlines now allowing passengers to use their devices and connect to in-flight WiFi.
The driving force behind the change is a guideline released on January 16 by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). After a series of technical tests, the report stated that Chinese airplanes are now certified to allow the use of Portable Electronic Devices (PED).
Since the release of the guideline, many airlines, including China Eastern, Hainan, China Southern and Spring Airlines have announced they will lift the ban on in-flight mobile phone usage.
According to the new regulation, passengers can use PEDs including mobile phones, laptops, tablets and e-books. However, they must ensure flight mode is switched on and they are forbidden to connect to the cellular network. In other words, they can’t make any phone calls while on the plane, and if electromagnetic interference is detected, the captain has the right to suspend the use of all devices. In addition, large PEDs such as laptops and tablets along with headphones and chargers cannot be used during takeoff and landing.
On January 17 at 9:36pm Hainan Airline flight HU7781, which set off from Haikou Meilan International Airport, made history by becoming the first airplane in China to allow smartphone usage. “From now on, you no longer have to turn off your phones during the flight,” said the plane’s captain Sun Jianfeng. “Just remember to keep the airplane mode on.”
Yesterday, China Eastern Airline also commenced allowing passengers to use cell phones while flying and after completing an authentication process, passengers can gain access to the in-flight WiFi. However, currently only 100 passengers are able to access the WiFi at one time.
“I was excited to be one of the 100 lucky dogs,” says Liu, a China Eastern passenger. “Then I found out the speed was too slow to open any pages. It took me nearly 5 minutes to send a picture to my friend through WeChat, it was quite a letdown.”
Unlike America, which has 71 percent of its airplanes equipped with in-flight WiFi, China didn’t commence the development of the technology until 2014, so it still has a way to go until it matches other countries standards.
That being said, the future is promising. According to the statistics of CAAC, the traffic volume of domestic airlines each year reaches almost half a billion and the market for in-flight WiFi is predicted to be worth US130 billion.
No matter the current condition of the in-flight WiFi, we still extend our gratitude to the airlines for taking this leap for all passengers and offering this new convenience.