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Civil Aviation Administration of China reconsiders restrictions on smart phones

By Caryn Schwartz (People's Daily Online)    17:41, August 24, 2016

Photo/Suzhou Daily

In recent years, many countries have updated their civil aviation regulations to allow the use of smart phones onboard aircraft. Those countries include the U.S., Brazil, Singapore and more. Now China may follow suit.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China is currently drafting an amendment that would relax restrictions on which electronic devices may be used on Chinese airplanes. Zhu Tao, director of the air transportation division of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said that the new, relaxed regulations will go into effect at the end of this year or in early 2017, according to a report on U.K. news site The Independent.

While most passengers are excited about the possibility, some have expressed concerns over safety. A reporter from China News spoke with one man, surnamed Guan, who was bewildered by the implications of the amendment. If passengers can use cell phones, won’t cell phone signals disrupt the plane’s operations? Guan wondered. And if the restrictions are loosened, does that prove that cell phones are safe to use on planes?

Of course, Wi-Fi on airplanes is not a new concept, even in China. While smart phones are currently not permitted to be used on Chinese airlines, tablets are. In 2011, Air China operated the first Chinese flight, from Beijing to Chengdu, on which Wi-Fi was available; China Eastern, Shenzhen Air, Hainan Airlines, Xiamen Air and Spring Airlines quickly followed.

Nevertheless, since Wi-Fi was first introduced by Chinese airlines, further progress has been slow, according to a report published by the Air China Wi-Fi Alliance. The report says that most Chinese airlines are taking a “wait and see” approach to onboard Wi-Fi service. The China News reporter found that many Chinese airlines offer Wi-Fi to a small, fixed number of passengers. For example, according to the report in The Independent, China Eastern offers free Wi-Fi to the first 50 passengers who register for any given flight.

More and more, industry insiders say that access to Wi-Fi will become a deciding factor for consumers looking to buy airfare. The Independent cited a recent survey showing that 90 percent of Chinese passengers prefer airlines that offer onboard connectivity. The article also cited Will Horton, an analyst at Hong Kong’s CAPA Centre for Aviation, who pointed out that even airlines who provide Wi-Fi for free are still likely to profit from the service.

“Profit doesn’t have to be objective, it can be about differentiation,” Horton explained. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Wu Chengliang,Bianji)

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