Smartphone use gets clearance during Japanese takeoffs, landings

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Airplane passengers were given official permission to use smartphones and other gadgets during takeoffs and landings in Japan as long as the devices are put into “airplane mode” to suspend their communications functions.

Monday’s changes follow similar decisions by the United States and the European Union last year, and after Australia last week relaxed rules for passengers on Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Under previous airline rules, mobile phones, computers and other digital audiovisual devices that emitted radio waves were supposed to be switched off during takeoff and landing but were allowed to be used during flight. The government said such devices could have adverse effects on navigation systems.

“The new rules do not apply to some airplanes with an old design,” a government official said.

Passengers are now also permitted to send and receive email on mobile gadgets when a plane enters the taxiway after landing, but using them for phone calls is still prohibited.

While wireless Internet connections are allowed under the regulations, airlines are still restricting their use to when planes are airborne.

“Being able to use my personal computer the whole time from takeoff till landing is very convenient,” said a 37-year-old man on an All Nippon Airways Co. flight Monday from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Osaka.