European flyers set to keep mobile gadgets switched on

BRUSSELS Mon Dec 9, 2013 2:29pm GMT

A world traveller cabin is seen in the British Airways Airbus A380 at Heathrow airport in London July 4, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

A world traveller cabin is seen in the British Airways Airbus A380 at Heathrow airport in London July 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Passengers on European flights may soon be able to use mobile gadgets throughout their journeys, but they will have to wait a while before they can make telephone calls, the European Commission's transport chief said on Monday.

Following guidance from the European Aviation Safety Agency, it is up to airlines, such as Lufthansa and British Airways, to update their rules so that passengers will no longer have to turn off mobile devices during take-off and landing, provided they are in flight-safety mode.

The step follows a similar change in the United States.

"It will be a new reality," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters.

"We expect most airlines to amend procedures so you will be able to keep mobile devices switched on in flight mode."

A Commission official added the change was expected in weeks as airlines could start implementing it from now.

The next step would be to enable mobile phone calls, Kallas said, adding there would be an update on that next year.

Until now, passengers have been required to turn off computers, music players and other devices during taxiing, take-off and landing, although some flights offer in-flight Wifi services.

Geert Sciot, a spokesman for the Association of European Airlines, said the body welcomed the harmonisation with U.S. rules, but the final word would be with individual airlines.

"We welcome it because we have to harmonise and because it's a trend," he said. "Airlines will still have individual policy. Some may decide not to allow it."

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by David Evans)

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