Virgin Australia and Qantas have both announced they have received approval to allow their passengers to use personal electronic devices such as smartphones and iPads ‘gate-to-gate’.
Both airlines announced on Monday evening that they had received the necessary CASA approvals to allow passengers to use personal hand-held electronic devices weighing less than 1kg during all phases of their flight, beginning from Tuesday August 26 (for Qantas the restriction will be lifted from 3pm). Devices heavier than 1kg will need to be stowed for takeoff and landing, while phones and tablet computers will need to be switched to ‘flight mode’.
“Qantas has conducted rigorous testing to assess the impacts of electronic devices on the safe operation of aircraft. We are confident that these devices are safe to be turned on, but in flight mode, for the duration of each flight,” Qantas Domestic chief executive officer Lyell Strambi said in a statement.
Separately Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said in a statement: “We know that a significant proportion of our customers travel with at least one smartphone or tablet, which demonstrates how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience.”
Qantas says its approval covers all domestic and international services, while Virgin Australia’s approval covers domestic and some short-haul international services aboard the airline’s Boeing 737, Embraer E190 and Airbus A330 fleets. Not covered are Virgin Australia Regional ATR 72 turboprops and Virgin Australia long-haul international Boeing 777-300ERs.
“Other aircraft in Virgin Australia’s fleet still require more testing and approvals prior to launching gate-to-gate access for personal hand-held devices,” the Virgin Australia statement noted.
Flights operated by Virgin Australia’s New Zealand-based operations (the former Pacific Blue) are also not covered by the CASA approval as that operation is covered by New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority regulations (Air New Zealand has offered gate-to-gate gadget use since July 16). Likewise, Qantas noted that: “QantasLink and Jetstar are in the final stages of preparing their submission to CASA for the extended use of personal electronic devices.”
As for concerns about passengers paying attention during the pre-flight safety briefing, Virgin Australia said: “Passengers will be asked to pause their in-flight entertainment while the pre-flight safety briefing is underway.” Qantas noted that “customers are still required to listen to all in-flight safety briefings and comply with cabin crew instructions.”
The Federal Aviation Administration cleared US airlines to allow gate-to-gate electronic device use last October.