From today, you'll be allowed to use electronic devices including phones, music players and ebook readers during take-off and landing on Qantas and Virgin Australia flights — but there are still some restrictions. Here's what you need to know.
Plane picture from Shutterstock
We've been expecting these rules for Australia ever since November last year, when using devices during take-off and landing was approved in the US. Being able to keep reading or listening to music during the entire flight is definitely a welcome development, as is being able to take photos during take-off and landing. However, we haven't gone from everything being banned to open slather.
Only some services count. You'll be able to use devices on most Virgin Australia flights from first thing today, and on Qantas from 3pm today. Approval hasn't yet been granted for Jetstar, QantasLink or Tiger (though that's expected in the future). Virgin's ATR72, Airbus 320, Fokker 50 and Fokker 100 aircraft also haven't yet been approved, which affects some Virgin regional flights (Australian Business Traveller points out that this impacts Sydney-Canberra flights). The approval stretches to international flights, but that depends on whether the country you're landing in has similar rules. Virgin's US-bound flights don't yet have approval.
You have to be in flight mode The main reason devices have been banned during take-off and landing is to ensure there isn't interference with on-board radio. To ensure that happens, all devices must be in flight mode as soon as the plane door closes, and you can't make calls or send texts during flights.
The partial exception: you may be allowed to have Wi-Fi enabled if the plane has on-board streaming. Virgin already offers apps which can be downloaded for streaming-equipped flights. Qantas says it will extend its iPad-based Q Streaming to devices owned by consumers in the near future. Unsurprisingly, the iOS app will come first, with "laptops and Android devices at a later stage".
You still have to pay attention to the in-flight briefing. The secondary reason for the ban has been so people don't ignore the safety announcements. If a staff member asks you to remove your earbuds while that happens, you'll have to comply.
You can't use laptops Kindles, iPods, smartphones and tablets are fine, but laptops are still barred since you can't hold them in one hand. There's a theoretical upper weight limit of 1kg on any device. While you might have a laptop or tablet-equipped that squeezes under that weight limit, in reality I suspect you'll still be asked to put it away. So you'll have to hold off typing until you've reached cruising altitude.
No more tarmac switch-off One other bonus: for flights where the new rules apply, you also won't be required to place your phone in flight mode before walking across the tarmac (if that applies to your flight). That typically applies to regional flights and many of those haven't switched yet, but it should increase your connected time in the near future.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is going to be using his Kindle in the air like you wouldn't believe. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.