The New Rules For Using Electronic Devices In-Flight In Australia

The New Rules For Using Electronic Devices In-Flight In Australia

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.


  • I wonder what they would say about the hybrids like my Microsoft Surface Pro? Is it a laptop or a tablet?

    • It’s a tablet – at least it was this afternoon on Qantas, watching a movie, even with typepad keyboard attached and folded back. I was actually quite impressed this morning; the flight crew were saying to another passenger that they’ll be able to keep reading their kindle, and not pretend to turn it off (since they don’t actually turn off). This afternoon they had the new spiel down pat, though the video safety briefing still said put in flight mode then turn completely off.

  • not sure why it was such a huge deal in the first place… ohh no i have to switch my phone off for 20 minutes or so. my life is over even though i don’t even get reception in the plane.

    • It’s a big deal because it’s arbitrary and unnecessary. Rules just for the sake of having rules.

      They can start or airport “security” next if they’re fixing up the BS rules they’ve put in place over the years.

      • The rule is not just because. People can not even take their eyes of the screen today not even when crossing the street, I can imagine what a security briefing would be like. Would people refrain from laud conversations? I don’t think so. Can’t we leave without these devices for 1 hour? I am an telecommunications professional and I don’t understand why people can’t just chill for a bit!!

        • Because ‘looking at a screen’ isn’t the issue. How is something with a screen more distracting than a book, the inflight magazine, talking to your fellow passengers or falling asleep? Those are all things that have always been allowed. In fact, I could probably read the security briefing out by far, I’ve been flying for over 20 years and there’s really nothing new. If I’m on an unfamiliar plane or with a different airline, I’ll pay attention, otherwise, I get it. Don’t panic, listen to the flight attendants. You’re confusing talking on the phone with allowing electronic devices to be on. They’re two different things, talking on the phone is still not allowed, mostly because there’s no point, there’s no signal.

          You also don’t seem to realise that your experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s. A lot of people take flights that are only an hour or two long, which meant that in the past, you couldn’t use your device till about 20 minutes into the flight and had to turn it off up to half an hour before landing. This makes no sense for a short flight. At all.

          It’s not about whether people can ‘chill’ or not, it’s about people getting to decide HOW they chill, if you want to stare out the window, good for you, if I want to read my e-book then I should get to.

  • And on the flip-side – mobile devices don’t interfere with aviation instruments. We all know at least one person who forgot to turn their phone off, and they lived to tell the tale.

    • If mobile phones could bring a plane down, they would be treated the same as guns and bombs.

  • On many flights I’ve been on most people have their devices on anyway. A surprising number of people seem to think pressing the power button turns their device off and seem shocked when an air host(ess) shows them how to power down completely.

  • As someone who reads books on my iPad mini this is great news. No more trying to fill the takeoff/landing time reading the same inflight mag (I fly a fair bit). As for the phone, I love being able to switch it off and blame it on the flight 🙂 sometimes I even do it when I hit the airport just for some extra quiet time

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