European flights to allow use of electronic devices in take-off and landing

The European aviation regulator is relaxing the rules over use of electronic devices during flights to allow the use of gadgets during take-off and landing for the first time.

Now, rather than being asked to take your headphones out and put your smartphone, iPod or tablet away, flyers will be able to carry on using them.

The only catch is that the device must be set to 'airplane mode' or 'flight mode', meaning texting, social networking, browsing and calling is not allowed, due to the continued risk of radio interference with flight equipment.

Playing a game, listening to music or reading an e-book are all now good to go though. Larger items such as laptops and portable DVD players will still need to be packed away due to the risk they pose to obstructing an emergency evacuation.

The decision follows the same rule change being made in the US last month, after the regulator there determined that the majority of commercial aircraft are unaffected by radio interference signals from personal electronic devices.

The change will apply to all aircraft operated by European airlines and is set to be implemented at the end of the month.

"This is a major step in the process of expanding the freedom to use personal electronic devices on-board aircraft without compromise in safety," said Patrick Ky, The European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) executive director.

"In the long term, the agency is looking at new ways to certify the use of mobile phones on-board aircraft to make phone calls. EASA recognises the wide proliferation of personal electronic devices and the wish of the travelling public to use them everywhere," a statement by the EASA added.

"The aim of the agency is to ensure safe and harmonised use of PED on-board aircraft operated by European airlines. Safety is EASA's priority; it is important that passengers continue to listen to the safety briefings conducted by the crew and follow their instructions."