It is minutes to take off, and you are sending your last business email before the holiday begins. As you are about to click send, the airline’s hostess tells you to put your phone away.
Peeved you hastily switch off your phone and watch the busy runway from your seat window. For many travellers having the restriction of not using portable devices onboard during takeoff and landing means that they cannot capture stunning images and videos, or use an app that calms their nerves.
In the past customers had to turn off and stow all electronic devices during taxi, take-off and landing, until now. Airlines like British Airways (operated by Comair), kulula.com, and FlySafair have sought approval from the South African Civil Aviation Authority to allow their passengers to use their phones onboard their flights.
FlySafair implemented the use of portable devices on their aircraft in 2017, followed by British Airways and kulula.com since June 2019. The devices include any handheld, lightweight electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers, smartphones and other small devices such as MP3 players, electronic toys and smartwatches.
There are conditions though: the devices can only be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. In a statement, Head of Marketing at kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair) Shaun Pozyn said they had worked closely with the South African Civil Aviation authority to approve this new policy on our aircraft.
“Safety is always our foremost priority. Allowing portable electronic devices on board is a significant enhancement to our customer experience.
“In the past, customers had to turn off and stow all electronic devices during taxi, take-off and landing. Passengers will now be able to read e-books, play games, watch videos and get some business done from gate-to-gate,” said Pozyn.
FlySafair’s Head of Sales and Distribution, Kirby Gordon told IOL Travel that since they have implemented the use of devices on their aircraft, they have increased their passenger numbers. He said that the airline was regularly looking at ways to enhance the customer travel experience and allowing the use of portable devices was one of their strategies to be ahead of their competitors.
“All airlines operate from the same airport, use the same type of aircraft and offer the same type of products. As an airline, we are always trying to find ways to enhance the experience for our travellers.
“We do believe that the use of portable devices did garner more passengers as many travellers offered anecdotal feedback that they enjoyed the benefit,” he said.