Euro airlines get exemption from airplane mode

Switching your smartphone to airplane mode may well end up a thing of the past in Europe, with regulators giving airlines permission to let passengers keep using wireless devices throughout their flight. The new guidance by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would mean that phones, tablets, laptops, ereaders, or any other portable electronic devices could be left as normal rather than being switched into a "safer" mode for the duration of travel.

However, while the EASA may have given the green light, that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to leave your phone connected.

Each airline will be left to decide how it wants to implement the new rules, and then go through an assessment process before passengers can take advantage. Key among the tests will be ensuring any transmissions from a wireless device won't interfere with an aircraft's own systems.

"For this reason," the EASA points out, "there may be differences among airlines whether and when PEDs can be used."

The agency had previously said late last year that device use could be maintained during most stages of flight as long as they were in airplane mode, much in the same way that the FAA had given its consent for US airlines.

Of course, just because it's turned on, doesn't mean a cellular radio will actually get a signal. Instead, this is more a convenience measure than a connectivity one, and you'll likely be still at the mercy of in-flight WiFi if you actually want to get online.

The EASA expects European airlines to begin implementing the new guidelines within the next eight months or so.