Chinese Airlines’ War On Cell Phones

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Hello from Changsha, China, where I just got off my Hainan Airlines flight from Los Angeles. I’ll have my full review on Hainan Airlines shortly, though in the meantime I have to address one aspect of the experience which caught me off guard.

Hainan-Airlines-LAX-Lounge - 29

It was my first time on Hainan Airlines and I was excited to review them, so I was sure to be the first passenger to board, and had my camera and iPhone in hand. Usually when I’m the first to board on a non-US airline and have the cabin to myself I ask the flight attendant if it’s okay if I quickly take a few pictures. I do this for two reasons:

  • It keeps them from getting suspicious or startled by me taking dozens of pictures in a very short period
  • It’s a polite way to ask them to stay the hell out of the way for a moment (this is especially important in first class, because the procedure is that they escort you to your seat, offer you a drink, chat with you, etc… all of which I love once I’ve gotten my pictures)

As I boarded my Hainan flight at LAX I asked the usual question, and much to my surprise the answer was (in broken English) “no photo.”

“So I can’t take any pictures on the plane?”
“No picture please.”
“Not even with my cell phone?”
“You may not use.”
“So… can I take a picture of my seat?”
“Yes, you can take photo, just not crew.”

Okay, so if I was understanding her correctly, she was saying the crew didn’t want to be in pictures, which is fair enough (I prefer keeping them out of my pictures anyway, if possible). So I headed to my seat in the last row of business class, and snapped a picture of the economy cabin from my seat.


The same flight attendant came running up to me.

“You cannot take photo. No photo.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand. I can’t take any photos?”
“Not of crew.”
“I wasn’t… can I take pictures of my seat?”
“Yes, it is okay.”


Fast forward to after takeoff, where I had a polar opposite experience. The lovely flight attendant working my aisle saw me take pictures with my camera, and she even insisted on arranging the plates perfectly before I took pictures — “please wait before you take picture, I will show you how to display.”


Photos weren’t the only problem on this flight. Apparently Hainan Airlines doesn’t let you use your phone on planes… not even in flight mode!!!

I clarified the situation, since that was the first time I’ve ever heard of such a rule. The purser returned and explained that all Chinese airlines have a ban of using phones in flight. I clarified again that my phone was in flight mode, and even showed the airplane symbol on the phone.

They insisted it wasn’t allowed, and I couldn’t use my phone… at all. She claimed that the ban on cell phones is a regulation for all Chinese airlines, which is news to me, since I’ve used my phone plenty of time on other Chinese airlines without issue.

But now that I’ve landed and looked up the rules (I had drafted the post “live” on the flight), that does indeed seem to be the case. What makes this so strange is that I’ve used my phone on almost a dozen flights on Chinese airlines for listening to music, taking notes, etc., and never had an issue. But the country bans cell phone use in-flight, though apparently they’re looking to lift that rule eventually. Am I the only one who had no clue about that?!

Not being able to use my iPhone in flight mode is extremely inconvenient, since I use my phone for listening to music, taking notes for my trip report, taking pictures, etc. For years I thought it was ridiculous that you couldn’t use electronics during takeoff and landing when in flight mode. But not even being able to use them at cruise altitude takes it to a whole new level!

Bottom line

I can’t believe I didn’t know that Chinese airlines ban cell phones prior to this flight. And I’m still not exactly sure what Hainan’s policy is on photography, since they eventually embraced my meticulous photo taking of every course of the meal.


While the above might sound negative, funny enough I was actually extremely impressed by Hainan Airlines. Not compared to the world’s top carriers, but rather compared to the other Chinese airlines I’ve flown. The food was great and service was fantastic — if only they had better seats!

Was anyone else not aware that Chinese airlines ban cell phones inflight? Am I the only one who never found it consistently enforced prior to this?

  1. weird Ive never had any problems before on other Chinese airlines and neither have you from what I take it, must just be a hainan thing. At least you truly experienced the product this way i guess but is a bit strange, still i hope you enjoyed the service 😀

  2. There is clearly a crew member in the first photo, so maybe they just really, really didn’t want any photos of crew at all.

  3. While Hong Kong SAR isn’t exactly Chinese, I wonder if this rule applies there also. If so, Cathay must be paying a lot in fines!

  4. Hainan is a 5* airline so I guess they have to adhere or at least inform you of the rules? Looking forward to reading your review. I first flew Hainan back in 2008 and was very impressed for a Chinese airline.

  5. Hi
    They are trying harass premium travellers. I was taking China Southern Airlines to Melbourne. The flight attendant asked me to not use cell phone during the flight. But when I take economy class, nobody cares. The reason may be that ppl in premium class have good manner so the flight attandents know they will listen. But in economy ppl are tend to be rude and aggressive sometimes (I’m Chinese so I know what Im talking about). If flight attandents force them to turn off the phone they may have an argument. The food on Chinese international airlines are terrible. On the flight to Melbourne, I ordered economy class food! And the crew knows it. They are having lobster in the cabin after serving dinner. Im not even lying.

  6. China Eastern also insisted that I completely turn off my cell phone when I flew their 77W on PVG-JFK, so it isn’t just a Hainan thing. What’s ironic, though, is that MU offers WiFi onboard.

  7. Cellphone use is indeed banned, even in airplane mode by the CAAC (the equivalent of FAA in the states). This becomes really inconvenient when airlines like MU and CA begin offering in-flight wifi, as you cannot use your smartphones to access wifi. I agree that eventually the ban will be lifted, but it is true that none of the Chinese carriers currently allow phones even in airplane mode. Taking photos of crew is probably just an airline rule though.

  8. I’m a very frequent flyer of intra-China flights, many airlines. The announcements that use of phones is not allowed is nearly universal. And nearly universally ignored.

  9. In China, the law prohibits passengers using cell phones as soon as the plane door is closed. As far as I know, Hainan is an airline that strictly enforces this law in flight.

  10. hainan airline is the best in china however CAAC prohibits the use of cell phone as well. Nothing to blame for hainan but CAAC. But the truth is that China does not have her own satellite and rent from the US. More details on wiki.

  11. They probably learned it the hard way from what happened to the China Southern crew after some foreign passenger took a picture of their Duc de Paris :P, which did generate quite some buzz in the industry and on the social media at the time. This explains why they were trying so hard to arrange the plates before each picture. They should be relived if they eventually find out that person was you lol!

  12. Air China enforces it very rigorously on their domestic flights. I took 4 flights with them last September, and each and every flight, the issue came up. So I found a solution that worked every single time: before the FA even starts saying something about the phone, just show it to her and say “Touch”, and they immediately understand you are using an ‘iPod Touch’.
    They never actually check further based on my experience, and once the 3-4 FAs working your aisle will have cleared you are using what you claim is an iPod Touch, you’re good to go!
    It makes no sense since an iPod Touch = iPhone in plane mode, but I suppose it is the only solution the Chinese government has found for now to ensure all phones are off. Looking at how Chinese passengers understand the notion of staying seated until you reach the gate, this law isn’t all that surprising…

  13. Air China is also quite strict about it. Saw a flight attendant even waiting near a passenger until she saw that his phone was turned off…

  14. I got busted for playing a game on my phone last March on China Eastern. I had no idea then about the rule. Very annoying.

  15. I take it this doesn’t apply to a tablet/ipad, right? I suppose it probably shouldn’t apply to an ipod touch either, although I guess the chances of being able to convince someone that’s not a phone is a percentage very close to zero.

  16. Can also confirm that it is by CAAC regulation the usage of mobile phone is prohibited at all time and it is quite strictly enforced by CA FAs. My go to solution in case the phone in question is an iPhone is by saying that it is an iPod Touch(yes those things still exist…)

    @Frank the reason why nobody forces you to turn off your self phone in Y is because there is simply not enough FAs to keep track of all the passengers

  17. Unfortunately, phones are banned during flight by CAAC. The more annoying thing is that all electronics are banned during takeoff/landing, and for Chinese carriers, “landing” starts from the top of descent. So officially you can’t look at tablet nor listen to music from 40 minutes before touching down.

  18. I guess I’m lucky and never had a problem. But like with many things it depends on how much an employee cares. I still recall while at a auto shop one worker saying to another about a customer’s missing lug nut. “Who cares its not my car take off two from the other side and the guy will never notice”

  19. CAAC never bothered to change the rules for some reasons, so apparently it’s still there and Hainan has to enforce it on their flight… The thing about Cathy, I believe Hong Kong (Cathy) is not under CAAC jurisdiction, therefore you can use cellphone in airplane mode on all CX/KA flights…

  20. I’m excited to here how empty/full the plane ended up being…! 🙂 Also, how come Hainan ended up using T2 instead of TBIT?!

  21. I was just on 2 CA flights (SIN-PEK and PEK-HKG) and used my phone openly on both flights. No one said anything to me at any time, even before and during takeoff and during and after landing. Maybe it varies by crew whether they enforce the law or not?

  22. I’ve had this issue repeatedly in China; it is indeed a federal regulation. In every cabin from domestic first to domestic economy to intercontinental biz, I’m not sure I’ve ever had the crew aboard a Chinese carrier be okay with cell phone use. Huge hassle, but if you’re just using it for music, you can just hide your phone under your leg…

  23. All Chinese airlines won’t allow you to use any function of your cell phone during flight, even on the flight mode. Some airlines fly to mainland china also have this rule. It’s because the Chinese government regulation.

  24. It may also be that they tend to enforce it more when they think someone of power, airline higher up or CAAC perhaps, is watching them enforce it. The FAs might not care, but they might get into trouble if they are not seen enforcing the rule.

  25. Just so you know, no cell phone during flight is a CAAC regulation, and that explicitly include cell phone with flight mode

  26. It’s been a few years, but this also used to be the rule on South African. Not sure if it’s still the rule.

  27. You may not use a phone on a domestic flight, but for international flights they are usually apathetic. Honestly it’s an outdated mundane rule that actually makes some sense if implemented domestically, since Chinese phones are hardly regulated at all and some phone actually makes an impact.

  28. I’m really impressed by how knowledgeable your readers are. So everybody wins my best post of the day prize, a real first.

  29. When I was in China I flew Dalian Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Air China. On these flights when I would use my phone the crew wouldn’t ask me to turn it off, but rather other passengers who saw me or my Chinese seat neighbor. I didn’t understand that it was a requirement to have it off at al times, as the crew announced that we should turn them off for takeoff only.

  30. Anyone remember ATA? They had their own rule banning use of phones even in airplane mode. I assumed they did this because they assumed that people were “too dumb” or afraid they would accidentally activate cell mode. Is that the reason behind the Chinese rule.

  31. Just wondering what would they say if you try to take pictures using an iPod. That is technically not a phone. However, an iPhone on airplane mode is nothing more than an iPod. Go figure!!!!!

  32. I’m pretty sure that CAAC has a strict regulation that all cellphones (including those in flight mode) cannot be used during the flight. This is a strict rule in the Chinese aviation industry and sometimes it might become a serious problem. News like “Some guy refused to turn off the flight mode cellphone and the crew called the police to arrest the guy” is pretty often seen on Weibo (Chinese Twitter)… However, sometimes the crew pretend as being ignorant about this rule to some premium passengers…

  33. I’ve seen it enforced quite harshly on several Air China international flights. Tablets are OK to use (yes, it does not make any sense).

  34. Same experience for my on my one and only experience with a Chinese carrier — Air China between Montreal and Havana. They asked me to stop using it even on airplane mode to take a photo out the window midflight.

  35. As bad as it sounds, I think the reason for this rule is that the regulator believes hat some passengers in China are too inexperienced or tech-clumsy to understand a more subtle rule, like “use it, but only in airplane mode”, or “use it, but don’t make calls”. So they figured it is best to go with a simple rule, don’t use it at all…

  36. Flew Air China Europe to Australia and back in economy and I saw the flight attendants telling a few people off for having phones turned on; I snapped a few photos of the food (as it was so terrible it amused me) and no one said anything although I don’t they saw me. As others have said, they had no issue with me using my ipad during the flight, although I was shocked when they told me I had to put it away during landing, something you don’t expect on a European airline these days

  37. I was watching a movie on my iPhone during a China Southern flight from PEK-PVG in 2013 when a FA told me to turn it off. Like you, I explained that it was in flight mode, but she said it didn’t matter. Thankfully, there were no issues with me using the phone during our four-hour diversion to HGH.

  38. It is a Chinese law. All carriers enforce it on domestic routes. Enforcement on US/Europe routes tend to be lax while if you fly we-BKK/SIN etc it’s likely more frequently enforced.

  39. This is common throughout China and Hong Kong – mainly Chinese airlines. I have had this happen on Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, and China United. On domestic Chinese flights and flights to/from Hong Kong. Never had a problem with airplane mode on Delta.

    The reason is probably anti-terrorism, which is becoming a more serious problem within China. I have spent significant time in Xingjiang provence and there are issues with WiFi – many hotels do not have it; only wired connections, and cell internet coverage simply sucks to put it mildly. Many cases of IEDs being triggered from cell phones, so if the phone is powered off, it reduces the chance of a phone triggering a device.

  40. I flew from Taipei to Shanghai a couple of years ago as the only passenger in business class and one the flight attendants even volunteered to take a picture of me as I was trying to do a selfie 😉 So, the enforcement of this “no pictures” policy seems to depend on the crew…

    For those who seem so outraged about the policy forbidding cell phones on planes in China, remember that, citing risks of electromagnetic interference with an aircraft’s electronics, the FAA did not allow passengers in the US to use devices not cleared by an airline as safe, among them mobile phones even set to “airplane mode”, until late October 2013.

    China has simply decided not to relax the policy…live with it!

  41. I just learned that China Airlines is not a Chinese Airline, they are actually a Taiwan based airline, hence why cell phone use is probably not regulated on CA flights. I flew from LAX to MNL on CA a few weeks back and had no issues.

  42. I had the same issue on a Vueling/Iberia flight from Rome to Lampedusa ( Sicily). The FA made quite a big deal of it, stood over me while I turned the phone completely off and was rather unpleasant about the whole thing.

  43. CAAC indeed has a rule that all mobile phones must be turned off during the flight operated by any Chinese carrier (excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), not even in airplane mode. This rule has been widely disputed on Chinese social media, and many experts also appeal against the rule. While some crew try to enforce the law, others just want to avoid the unwanted dispute. They may also be stricter on Chinese passengers, as fewer of them know that using phones with airplane mode during flight is common in other places, or they just don’t want to negatively impress foreigners.

  44. …and one of the reasons I fly any airline but a Chinese one when going to, from, or through Asia. Had a 10-hour China Air flight from Beijing to SFO made much less enjoyable by not being aware they are apparently operating in the 3rd century. Screw that policy.

  45. @Raf,

    “They probably learned it the hard way from what happened to the China Southern crew after some foreign passenger took a picture of their Duc de Paris…”

    Ha! Classic! 🙂

  46. Had the same experience on a flight on Xiamen airlines. I wanted to take a picture of the food, suddenly a flight attendand came running to me to tell me to switch off my phone…flight mode also not allowed. He was acting like the plane is crashing any second if I don’t switch off now 🙂

  47. “I flew from Taipei to Shanghai a couple of years ago as the only passenger in business class on AIR CHINA…etc…” to make my prior concise and OT.

  48. Yes, I knew this rule of total ban on using your phone in any mode. I was playing a game with my phone during a flight inside China and they asked me to turn it off. It is an archaic rule.

  49. Cellular phone is banned, but iPad is not. Get a 3G IPad Mini, or a iPad connected to 3G broadband wifi router. That’s how I got through the boring time on board Chinese air planes before the takeoff.

  50. It has been that way for quite some time. I have seen flight attendants on several occasions ask passengers to put their phones away on Chinese airlines.

    What I find equally confounding, however, is that United Airline flights from China to the US, do not allow passengers to buy duty free goods at the airport; however, they are allowed on the flight itself. They insist that this is to conform with US regulations, but while I have looked, I have never found this regulation. Would be great if you could look into this.

  51. According to Chinese rules and regulations it is in fact forbidden to use cell phones or pads during the flight. However, China is China. Except during take-off and landing it’s required to turn it off during the flight it’s normally not a problem to read, watch movies or whatever, as long you don’t try actually to make phone calls. In that case you mostly end up at least in 5 days detention….

  52. i do not understand why a grown man in his 20’s cannot go a few hours without using the phone or the internet, you would think that the oxygen was shut off or the bathrooms were shot off or something, my god,people it is a phone, a device, can’t one go a few hours without it and just enjoy the peace and tranquility.

  53. Had exactly the same problem with Hainan Airlines. I has asked not to use the phone even in flight mode. I asked to call their senior crew member, and was again told the same. Upon my request they found some sort of official paper seemingly prohibiting usage of phone.

  54. Yea I live in China and its the law that you cant use phones at all during the flight. But if you are discreet about it, they usually wont bother you if you take some pictures or listening to music with your phone not visible.

  55. Had a similar experience while travelling via Southern China Airlines, just 1 day before this article went live. The air stewardess didn’t allow me to use mobile phone although it was on flight mode. And I was using it merely to listen music to kill my boredom. Tried explaining to them but they strictly said no.

    There was no TV or any other thing to keep me entertained during the 4 hours flight. In the end, the boredom was killing me instead.

  56. I had same issue last week on an 11 hour flight from Guangzhou with China Air Southern. I flat refused to turn off my phone so I could read. The chief steward came and apologized and asked me to send in a written complaint. I bombarded them with a long story. They rang today from their office in Guangzhou and said it was a Government regulation. I think us English speakers on extra long haul flights need to make it pretty clear. We need to read or we will go mad due to boredom and cause more problems for them. Perhaps they just do not need our business.
    No trouble on their brothers from the province of Taiwan (ROC) planes.

  57. Well, as far as I’m aware, 99% of the Chinese do switch off their phones before the plane takes off. They are convinced that the cellphone signal will interrupt the communication of the plane due to signal overlapping. It is believed that the EM wave frequency for phones are close to the frequency for their communication.
    And yes, the ban on cell phones is written in their civil aviation flight standards regulations.

  58. Oh goodness here it is May and the rules have not changed yet. I am booked to fly China Air Southern in December. The company did say they are trying to get the rule changed. Are readers suggesting I take a tablet with me to read my books rather than my flight mode iPhone6. One poster on another forum said I was lucky I was not locked up for refusing to turn off my book. (iPhone). In my opinion the more travelers bring this issue to the general public’s attention and post more comments on line the more likely they will change. I am not suggesting standing in front of a tank. Just be a great mass of people politely and humbly asking for common sense and mercy.

  59. I flew China Southern in December 2015, from Singapore to GuangZhou to Canada. I did not know about this rule either because I usually fly with Cathay Pacific, where I didn’t have any problems with phones. I was busted using my phone, and I was confused because the other passengers could use their laptops and tablets (I thought if all other electronics were okay, why not phones?). The flight stewardess repeatedly gave her broken English response of something like a “ban” because phones have “signals,” and these signals are “dangerous.” I showed her the airplane mode, but she just kept repeating that I still could not use my phone. I Googled this during the short layover in GZ, and I was surprised that it really was a ban for all Chinese airlines ! So, on my second leg, I told them my iphone was an ipod hehe

    I think this little fun-fact about Chinese airlines needs to be spread more widely — as long as this ban is still in place. I mean, if the ban is on ALL Chinese airlines, why is it that MOST people only find out when they are caught doing it WHILE they’re on the flight? People are going to be very upset and angry about the rule, and they’re not going to understand why flight mode is NOT ok, and the air stewardess’ broken-English explanation will not help.

  60. It’s really just a ban on being obnoxious as it has nothing to do with signal. Bully for the Chinese. They got one right!

  61. I too have been asked to switch my phone off on a China Eastern Airlines flight. To my understanding, all phones and portable chargers are to be turned off on flights because China has many dodgy and low quality producers that may not have necessary safety implementations in place to reduce the chances of overheating and short circuiting (which may result in a fire) and obviously it’s dangerous to have a fire on a plane. That’s what I heard from the flight attendant on my flight, but she let me use my phone after verifying it’s a name brand phone (Sony) and didn’t bother me. It’s quite weird how they ban only phones but mp3 players can equally be as dodgy lmao

  62. I flew China Southern and GX Airlines last Month. On Both Airlines I was not allowed to use my Phone even in the Flight Mode. However, they did not say anything regarding my iPad with Data connection on Airplane Mode.

  63. Two weeks ago I had a personal call from China Air Southern. They explained again that in China their Government will not permit cell phones on flight mode. When I pointed out to them that their web site proudly proclaims that some of their planes now offer wi fi they struggled. I asked them what device was permitted to access their new wi fi service. They suggested I use an ipad to read my book on Kindle. I asked them to send me an email confirming it was ok to use an iPad. They sure did email but mysteriously overlooked mentioning the iPad. They just repeated parrot fashion that phones could not be used on their planes.
    I just hope that the engineers who make up rules about cell phones are not permitted within a country mile of their air craft engines. These people are not technologically savvy.

  64. Just came back from a flight from Shanghai to SG with China Eastern. This no cellphone ban was utterly confusing and ridiculous to me. And i did give a piece of my mind to the air stewardess. Airlines should train their crew to explain “logically” why this is an issue to them. Not parrot back “cause it’s a rule” when probed.

    I wished the airline said so in the beginning or at least upgraded aircrafts to have entertainment.

    No cell phones but laptops and ipads are permitted for use. Can’t charge phones with portable charger.

    I need to remind myself what a queer country China is although China is getting technologically advanced but society wise and rules still in the 20th century.

  65. I was shocked a couple of days ago on a flight with Hainan airlines when the flight attendant forced me to turn off my iPod, calling it a phone. Even after I explained that it was not a phone and that it was in flight mode, I was told that using it was against the regulations.

  66. Hi everyone, do you know if they still ban using phones in flight mode? It’s 2017!!! I have a flight this week Manila-Shanghai-LAX

  67. Worse than banning use of cell phone is the that a least 40 min before landing all electronics have to be turnedone off, and my experience with MU and CA is that they also turn off the in flight entertainment system. Or I also had one MU flight wheere the IFES was still working but it was not allowed to have the headset plugged into the system during that time….. I could bring a paper book – if that does not get banned too. I really think that they are in no need for cutomers as the service cannot be compared to many other Asians, ME, and European companies.

  68. I recently flew from New York to Japan and back via Air China with layovers in Beijing and wasn’t allowed to use my phone on any of the 4 flights it was very frustrating because I had downloaded a bunch of movies and games to my phone for the flight. They were fine with tablets and kindles but no phones. One of my friends and I actually got away with listening to music, we just kept the phone screen off and out of sight. Also on Air China they had screens on the back of the seats but most of the movies available were in Chinese so there wasn’t much selection for English speakers.

  69. I just took a flight from London to Guangzhou on Southern China and was told by the air stewardess to turn the phone off when she me looking it. I had never heard of this rule and it’s ridiculous if the phone is placed into flight mode. She insisted that I turn it off because it’s a law of China which didn’t do any more to convince me and eventually she called a security man over to me who also insisted I turn the phone off. The air stewardess told me not to worry because there was plenty of music I could listen to on their own system, which obviously misses the point about this stupid restriction. Under threats of arrest made by the airline staff I eventually turned the phone off although I remained unimpressed and turned it on again afterwards and continued to listen to a podcast via my bluetooth headphone. Until this alleged rule is changed I won’t be flying this airline or other chinese airlines again.

  70. I think the answer is to always use blue tooth headphones. My hearing aids need my phone to operate correctly. Just keep the phones hidden from view.

  71. HI all, just got off a China Eastern flight, what a shitty airline in my opinion to Shanghai as part of a Canadian tour. I too ran into this problem and was told twice to physically “power down” my iphone even after showing them I was in Airplane Mode. I use my phone to listen to music to drain out all the garbage noise of high maintenance, whinny entitled travellers complaining, people hacking and coughing, and babies crying. Obviously there was a bit of a language barrier as I do not know Mandarin and I give the stewards credit for trying to speak English to me, but all I wanted was a reason why I was being “told” to power off my iphone when both the passenger in front of me and beside me had their big laptops powered up and clearly connected to wifi, sending and receiving emails. I mentioned this to them and asked politely to provide the reason why I was the only one required to do so. Eventually, I believe she was the senior steward on board, came over and said to me that it was Chinese law that mobile phones must be powered down on airplanes. I said, this is completely news to me and that I’ve never heard of that rule on any other airline I’ve flown outside of China. So I inquired further and confirmed that it was ok for me to have my ipad powered up and in use, or if I had a laptop, I could have that powered up and in full use, but mobile phones are prohibited? She kindly confirmed that was correct. I could use any other portable electronic device and even have it connected to wifi within the plane but mobile phones are not. How’s that for confusing? Haha. So I powered down my phone, went up to the overhead compartment and pulled my ipad out of my pack and proceeded to use that instead. Again, not really sure what the difference was. If I wanted to screw up and interfere with the planes communication system or track the plane and be in contact with some illegal terrorist group on the ground or anywhere else for that matter, I could easily do it with my ipad or a laptop so long as my mobile phone is powered down. Now I know for my flight home. Thanks to this site for the info as well. I can now sleep better tonight knowing that my flight back home from China will be safer because no one will have their mobile phones powered up.

    Oh and to “stanton”, the poster above me telling people to read a book instead……no thanks, I’ll still be distracted by your arrogant and ignorant presence. I’d rather listen to music privately through my headphones and tune you out completely, jackass.

  72. It is end of September 2017, and situation still have not changed. I flew MU208 (777-300ER, Sept 23rd 2017) and MU719 (A320, Sept 25th 2017) on YYZ – PVG – NGO, and was told to turn off my iPhone, which was in flight mode.

    There is a weird inconsistency, because in a safety briefing (repeated in English, Chinese, and in case of MU719 in Japanese also), they mention that 15 minutes after takeoff laptop can be used, provided that Wifi function is disabled.

    However, on MU208, a Chinese girl across the aisle from me was using an iPad, obviously with at least Wifi on, because she was messaging back and forth with someone. I, too, have a cheap LG tablet with SIM card slot and wifi, so I got it out, and turned it on, and FA walked by me, and didn’t say anything. I struggled with logging on onto their wifi – it wants the seat number, and last 4 digits of the passport number, and in my case it was not working. I flagged down an FA, that was walking around offering water, and she tried putting them in herself (confirming that I was putting in the correct bits, since I showed her the ticket stub and passport). It didn’t work for her either, so eventually she just put in her own credentials. And wifi worked. whatismyip com was showing that the external IP that was assigned to me was registered in Shanghai, China.

    By the way, regular digital cameras are OK. Got my Panasonic out, took some photos, no problems from FAs.

    So tablets, even with SIM cards, seem to be OK. Phones seem to be not. Laptops with wifi off seem to be OK. So I guess that inflight wifi is there for tablets only?

    Based on number of people who were getting up as the plane had a gear down, or taxiing, and were screamed at by the FAs to sit and strap down, my theory is that:
    a) Chinese Civil Aviation Authority knows the passengers, and knows, that if phones are allowed, people would not put them in flight mode and would try to make phone calls (possibly resulting in fights) . Of course CCAA haven’t figured out yet that some tablets can take SIM card too.


    b) They suspect that some of Chinese cell phones are shoddily built, potentially capable of causing either RF interference, or maybe overheat battery and burst to flames while searching for the tower signal in the middle of Atlantic.

    By the way, USB power banks above certain capacity (21000 milli amp hours, which is huge) are also not allowed, and this is checked for and enforced at customs. So if you are passing customs in Chinese airport, your powerbank needs to have a voltage rating on it, or it will be taken away.

    As an aside, China Eastern FAs are not bad. They struggle with English, especially on flights to non-English countries, but if you explain to them a problem, they try to help, at least within their own abilities. (by the way, I am fluent in Japanese, and I’d figure that on a flight to Japan there would be at least one person, that can speak Japanese but I tried, and even that was not the case) Most girls are young and attractive, which helps.

  73. Just took a flight from HNL – PVG on China Eastern and can confirm that the “no mobile phone, even in flight mode” is still enforced. I had my phone out and was sternly told “phone not ok” I had read about it a couple of weeks prior but wasn’t too sure. What really made the 11 hour flight worse was that there was no in seat entertainment. They did show a few movies on the cabin screens but they were in Chinese. Luckily I had my laptop and was able to watch a couple of movies.

  74. One GOOD thing about China Eastern though is their free wifi (slow, but it kinda works) even in economy…you just have to ask for the code from the flight attendants. You can’t use your phone (duh!) so you’ll need a laptop or iPad.

  75. Nov 2017 and the mobile phone ban is still in place for Air China (just did LHR-PEK and back). It’s a typically Chinese heavy handed approach since they cannot trust their citizens to not use phones to make calls during a flight, so they ban ALL mobile phone use. Now that I know about this ban I can plan ahead for my next flight…But I think the bigger atrocity on the flight was the Great Wall wine, and the lack of G&Ts in the beverage cart!

  76. I flew from the UK to Beijing with Hainan last year and had this problem. I was able to use my kindle but I was bored without my music. They allowed me to charge my phone using the USB point under the seat. When I plugged my phone into it, it automatically switched my phone on, although it was in flight mode. The whole thing doesn’t make sense but next time I will take a cheap ipod for my music so I don’t get bored.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *