China Eastern Becomes First Chinese Airline To Allow Inflight Smartphone Use

Filed Under: China Eastern, Travel Technology

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It’s my understanding that this is a way outdated policy, and that back in the day their concern was that people wouldn’t keep their phone in airplane mode, etc.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.

(Tip of the hat to @FOHeming)

  1. Hainan too, according to the same Twitter feed.

    Flying both MU and HU next week, so pretty happy about the timing.

  2. Whoops, its a good thing I didn’t get in trouble for using mine, that would have been a miserable 12 hour flight 2 weekends ago on Air China. It’s funny because I was in the last row by the crew the entire time.

  3. Just a funny story. China Eastern is the first Chinese mainland airline to announce this policy with flights starting at Jan. 18 (literally at 12:00 am Jan.18, flight attendants on some China Eastern’s overnight flights announced that now phones are allowed).

    However, Hainan is the first Chinese mainland airline to actually allow inflight smartphone use. Hainan began immediately on Jan.17 night, with its President onboard the flight HU7781 to announce now phones are allowed.

  4. I used my phone last year to document some stuff on China Southern (despise them if you want, but their economy and premium economy have given me good impressions) but I gladly welcome the change. Funny enough this was talked about 6 months ago again on this website

  5. Better change the headline to “mainland Chinese airline”. Cathay already allows it, and Hong Kong is part of China. Don’t want to upset the Communist Party like Delta did!

  6. Hmmm I flew MU from lax – pvg after New Years and even in J they asked us to switch off our phones. Maybe it hasn’t been implemented entirely?

  7. @ John right on. The flight attendant allowed people to use their labtops inflight but not allowed the use of smartphones inflight. I guess it either depends on the flight attendant or who were the VIPs.

  8. I flew LAX to PVG and back last March, used IPhone and IPad on the flights with in flight internet. Internet worked well and was never told that I could not use either devise.

  9. “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.”

    Not entirely correct, MU, CZ, and CA have permitted use of tablets (airplane mode) upon reaching cruising altitude for several years already. Only phones have been prohibited during the entire flight (until today with MU).

  10. This is gonna suck big time. You guys have probably never taken the train in China where cell phone use has been permitted. Get ready for “shout mode.” I also bring those disposable headphones from hotel gyms to distribute since obviously fellow passengers must have forgotten them, which is why they are blasting their phones volume to watch video.

  11. Just seen on WeChat that Spring Airlines have announced that they will also permit PED use gate to gate from February 1st.

  12. @Aaron

    I’ve travelled on numerous trains in China (K-class, T-class, Z-class, D-class and G-class, so I’ve almost seen them all), and not once have I had an issue with obnoxious smartphone usage.

    Admittedly, I have witnessed a couple of isolated incidents regarding smoking, though, of course, everybody was polite enough not to say something.

    While I can’t speak for every Chinese train, and maybe that is the case in Northeastern China and Xinjiang where I am yet to visit, a smartphone-based incident is something I’ve never seen before.

  13. Air China’s website now states that they allow the use of Personal Electronic Devices. Good thing too as I’ve got 4 legs booked with them between London and Singapore in a couple of weeks.

  14. Spring Airlines will allow use of cellphones next month. Lucky Air, Xiamen Airlines, and China Southern Airlines will start Friday. I couldn’t quite tell from the news if it was the 19th or 26th, but regardless before the end of January, you can use it on these three airlines. I am sure before CNY, Spring Airlines will allow the use of phones as well.

  15. @Stanley Shenzhen Airlines began permitting PEDs from today (23/1) according to Chinese media. It looks like each airline, no matter what its parentage has to apply separately for permission from the CAAC. For example, Shanghai Airlines only permitted PEDs on the 19th despite China Eastern permitting them from the 18th.

    As it stands, according to Chinese media, 9 out of the top 10 mainland airlines permit PEDs, with the other (Spring Airlines) permitting PEDs from February 1st.

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