You Can Finally Fly With Your Phone On in China — On Two Airlines Only

Jan 17, 2018

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Passengers on Chinese airlines have long known that keeping your phone on during flight is a no-no, even in airplane mode. But now two major Chinese carriers are allowing passengers to use their personal electronic devices in flight. In September the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration ruled that it would soon allow individual airlines to choose whether or not they’ll allow passengers to use their phones and other similarly-sized personal electronic devices. On Thursday (China time), China Eastern and Hainan Airlines became the first two Chinese carriers to allow passengers to use their PEDs during flight — as long as they remain in airplane mode.

TPG’s Nick Ellis experienced the strange policy firsthand when he flew in business class on Xiamen Air’s 787 from Seattle (SEA) to Shenzhen (SZX). When he started using his phone to listen to music, a flight attendant informed him of the policy and offered a velvet pouch to store his phone for the duration of the flight. He was lucky, though. In February, three passengers were detained by Beijing police after using their phones during flight. TPG flew in China Eastern’s first class on its 777-300ER and didn’t have any issue with his PED usage.

Other Chinese carriers must decide whether or not to allow personal electronic device usage in flight by the end of 2019. Presumably, it would be hard for a carrier that doesn’t allow phone usage to compete with one that does — at least as far as passenger experience is concerned. Until you know if the airline you’re flying allows PED usage, we recommend bringing a laptop or tablet with downloaded content in order to ensure you’re entertained during your flight.

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