You can finally play with your phone on a Chinese flight
It’s 2018, and Chinese airlines are finally allowing people to use their phones on planes.
Foreigners used to using their phones on flights elsewhere in the world may have found traveling on Chinese airlines frustrating because you were required to keep them turned off completely throughout the whole flight. That’s right: Airplane mode is not an option on airplanes in China.
In fairness, the rule isn’t always strictly enforced, but if flight attendants see you use your phone, they will come and ask you to turn it off. And given how tense flying can be, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that things can escalate from there.
In early 2017, three Chinese passengers were detained by Beijing police for using their phones while in the air. One of them was jailed for five days for allegedly listening to music during takeoff and landing.
In 2014, officials justified the ban by saying they couldn’t be certain airplane mode actually cut off cell signals -- pointing out that you can still make an emergency call while airplane mode is activated.
On January 15th, authorities announced that using PED (Portable Electronic Devices) on planes had “shown signs of maturity." Within days, five airlines announced that they would allow passengers to use cell phones with airplane mode activated. China Eastern Airlines even went one step further by supporting an in-flight Wi-Fi connection.
But before you prepare to WeChat your way across the skies of China, don't get too excited. Some reporters on board the first Wi-Fi-enabled flights say that the connection was only good enough to send text messages and that it was difficult to send photos or make voice calls.