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On a BMI flight from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegal at the start of Feb 2012 passengers were told cellphones were no longer allowed on at all during the flight(regardless of flight mode) due to new CAA regulations. The crew were walking up and down checking regularly and telling people to turn their cellphones off.

Has anyone else encountered this or have any further information as to why the sudden change?

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Not really. I flew four times in Europe this week, and it has never been an issue. I often use my mobile as a music player to isolate myself from cabin noise. I even used my Kindle during landing without anyone from the crew caring too much about it. –  mindcorrosive Feb 8 '12 at 14:38
    
However this is common for low-cost companies (I'm looking at you, Ryanair), to make you purchase something from them when you are deprived of (almost) all sources of entertainment. –  mindcorrosive Feb 8 '12 at 14:39
    
I asked if my kindle was OK and they said it was fine, but there had been a recent change in regulations regarding cell phones. –  Stuart Feb 8 '12 at 16:50
    
I noticed a similar new rule on a u.S. domestic flight in Jan 2012 when we were told that cell phones had to be "completely off, not just airplane mode"--but only during take-off and landing. –  Flimzy Feb 8 '12 at 19:19
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@Flimzy that's not a new rule, that's always been the standard. No electronics during take off and landing. –  Ray Feb 8 '12 at 20:50
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4 Answers

I call BS.

From Civil Aviation Authority website:

Portable Electronic Devices

The use of portable electronic devices for sending and receiving data and voice calls is not permitted on board aircraft after they have closed their doors.

It may be possible to use a portable electronic device that has a transmitting facility in-flight, provided the transmitting facility is de-activated. This is often referred to as ‘flight safe mode’ or ‘airplane mode’.

Some airlines allow customers to use portable electronic devices for transmitting data and calls if the aircraft is fitted with a system that supports this, but there may charge for this facility.

If you are flying with a low-cost airline or one that provides additional paid-for "services" on board (meals, drinks, sky shops, entertainment) then this airline "policy" makes economics sense (to them), but you can point out that since the Aviation Authority explicitly allows usage of devices in non-transmitting mode, they might as well STFU and leave you alone.

If you are an EU citizen, I'm sure your local European Consumer Center would like to hear from you. You might also want to check the Is it Fair? initiative, where there are some helpful information on how to signal about unfair business practices.

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Perhaps this is a recent change? Both OP and @Basak mention this on recent flights. –  Ankur Banerjee Feb 8 '12 at 16:09
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I understand what you say about low cost carriers. However I was flying on BMI (British midland airways (currently a subsidiary of Lufthansa soon to be a subsidiary of British Airways) which is a full service airline. My last flight with BMI was on the 10th Jan 2012 where this was not a problem. –  Stuart Feb 8 '12 at 16:55
    
@AnkurBanerjee it's not recent. The wording ruling was merely updated about 5 years ago to reflect the growing number of devices with "airplane mode" so as to make it clear that enabling that does not equate turning the device off. –  jwenting Feb 10 '12 at 6:25
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On a series of flights in the UK this week with BA, the rules were still the standard:

No electronic devices during taxi, take-off or landing Electronic devices with a flight safe mode acceptable during the flight

I can't understand why they would change that rule - from a technical risk standpoint it is already accepted that mobile phones remaining on during flight isn't a security risk, but actually just causes the phone network some issues.

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On a flight from Bergamo to Istanbul, on 6th Feb 2012 same rules were applied. They explicitly told that flight mode is not allowed. The airline was Pegasus Airlines.

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Which airline was this? –  Ankur Banerjee Feb 8 '12 at 16:09
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I find this hard to believe. Some european airlines (e.g. Ryanair) have a little phone base station on the plane, so you can roam onto their network and make phone calls while in flight. Since they allow you to make phone calls during some of the time on some flights, it can't be the case that they are banned.

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