European Union to scrap airplane mode requirement – will Australia follow suit?

Kids with face protective mask using mobile phone in airplane

Travellers flying around the European Union (EU) will soon be able to use their mobile devices in full effect as airplane mode requirements will be dropped.

This came as the European Commission ruled that airlines can provide 5G technology on flights, meaning flyers no longer have to put their phone on airplane mode.

Member states have until 30 June 2023 to make the 5G frequency bands available for planes, according to the BBC.

Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the internal market, said it would be beneficial for European companies and “enable innovative services for people.”

“The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity,” Breton said.

The use of 5G on flights has been banned due to the lack of knowledge of how it could impact the plane. Some had fears that the data frequency from phones would interfere with flight control systems. This could potentially impact the altitude measurements of the aircraft’s automatic control systems.

But Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, said that this is not an issue in the UK and EU.

“There is much less prospect of interference,” Whittingham said.

“We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and there are lower power settings than those that have been allowed in the US.

“The travelling public wants 5G. The regulators will open up that possibility, but there will be steps that will be taken to ensure that whatever they do is safe.”

Will Australia follow suit?

The Australian Government released a statement earlier in the year that there is no sign of 5G interference in Australian aviation.

The statement, which came out in February, said there had been much debate in the US around the impact of 5G signals and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) advised that this is a local debate for the US. Australia has well-established processes for considering how to balance the needs of different spectrum users and protect services such as the radio altimeters used by aircraft.

In Australia, both 4G and 5G wireless broadband services have been operating in the 3.4-3.7 GHz band since 2016 and 2019 respectively, which is well below the frequencies used for radio altimeters. There haven’t been any recorded incidents of wireless broadband systems interfering with radio altimeters to date.

Despite the move by the EU drop airplane mode requirements, there has been no such action yet in Australia.

Travel Weekly reached out to Qantas, Virgin Australia and CAPA for comment but have not received a reply.

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