Tap away on your gadget on take-off?

SINGAPORE - Singapore could lift curbs on the use of laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices during all stages of a flight, following an easing of the rules by the United States.

Such a change would mean that these devices can be used not only above 10,000 feet but also below it, which means travellers do not have to switch them off during take-off and landing.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Wednesday said it is studying the new US guidelines to assess whether it is feasible to implement them.

Safety will be the top priority, its spokesman told The Straits Times: "The baseline for any regulatory change is that an equivalent level of safety must be maintained."

The US guidelines, announced last week, come after an extensive review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The change was prompted by studies that show planes nowadays are equipped with technology which will not be compromised by the use of electronic devices.

South Korea has since followed suit while regulators in Hong Kong and New Zealand, like Singapore, are mulling over the matter.

If Singapore lifts the restrictions, travellers can keep their devices running from the time they step into the plane at Changi Airport until it lands - provided the regulator at the destination airport does not restrict their use.

Mobile phones, however, will have to be kept in airplane mode throughout the flight to turn off their cellular connection.

Only on planes fitted with Wi-Fi technology can travellers use their mobile phones to chat, SMS or surf the Internet.

Singapore Airlines is among a growing number of carriers providing such Wi-Fi technology on some of its long-haul planes.

Still, airlines have to seek approval from the authorities before they can offer travellers expanded use of such gadgets.

In fact, the CAAS had, in February, relaxed its rules to let passengers on Singapore carriers use devices like mobile phones while the plane is taxi-ing after landing.

Previously, these could be turned on only after the aircraft had come to a complete halt.

The possibility that electronic devices can be used throughout a flight was cheered by frequent travellers like finance executive Ivan Lee.

Said the 36-year-old: "If there are no safety implications, it makes sense to relax the rules to give people more time to do their work, play games or do whatever else."

It will also mean the cabin crew need no longer remind people repeatedly to turn off their devices before landing, travellers said.


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