Forget 'airplane mode': devices are decreed okay for inflight use in Europe

Passengers probably still can't play Words with Friends during taxi or takeoff, though

Airline passengers traveling on European airline flights will be able to leave their mobile phones and other connected e-gadgets on throughout the entire flight, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said Friday.

European airlines can allow any kind of electronic devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones to remain switched on for the entire trip without having to use the airplane mode. Switching to airplane mode was mandatory until now.

"This is the latest regulatory step towards enabling the ability to offer 'gate-to-gate' telecommunication or WiFi services," EASA said in a news release.

It is up to the airline to decide whether to allow the use of electronic devices. In order to do so, they will have to go through an assessment to ensure the aircraft systems are not affected by device transmission signals in any way.

However, to ensure safety on board, passengers will likely be asked by the cabin crew to stow their devices during taxi on the runway and take-off, an EASA spokesman said, adding that airlines can still set rules on when devices can be used.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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