As I’ve written about in the past, one of the most annoying aviation policies (at least as a passenger) is that you’re not allowed to use smartphones or tablets on Chinese airlines, whether you’re on the ground and the door is open, or you’re in the air. Yes, you can’t use your smartphone or tablet even in airplane mode. It’s a ridiculous policy, especially given that some Chinese airlines have Wi-Fi nowadays. So you’re okay using the Wi-Fi on a laptop, but not on another 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 Wi-Fi, 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It’s my understanding that this is a way outdated policy, and that back in the day their concern was that people wouldn’t keep their phone in airplane mode, etc.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. I guess 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
Anyway, there’s some GREAT NEWS on this front. The South China Morning Post reports that China’s Civil Aviation Administration is revising their aviation regulations, and soon it will be up to airlines to decide if they want to allow the use of smartphones and tablets in-flight. I can’t imagine airlines wouldn’t want to allow passengers to use them, so this should hopefully lead to smartphones and tablets being usable in the cabins of Chinese airliners again soon. The change won’t happen overnight, but hopefully it happens within weeks and not years.
This is really fantastic news. For my trip reports I always like to jot things down in the “Notes” app on my phone during the flight so I can remember everything about the service, and I’m not even allowed to do that on Chinese airlines. Hopefully that changes soon.