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CASA lifts restrictions on gate-to-gate PED usage

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has granted permission for airlines to be able to use Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) throughout their entire journey, with Qantas being the first Australian carrier to adopt the changes.

The development, which has lifted restrictions on the use of PEDs across all domestic and international flights, has been introduced by Qantas with immediate effect following CASA’s request that the airline revises its policy on PEDs to suit their new safety guidelines.

CASA recently released an Airworthiness Bulletin titled ‘Aid to Operators for the Expanded Use of Passenger PEDs’. The guidance is based on a supplemental document released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February 2014, which has been adapted for Australia.

The bulletin specified that large PEDs, such as laptops, must be stowed during take-off and landing, whilst small PEDs (which qualify as anything weighing less than 1kg) must be stowed or secured in passengers hands, pockets or the aircraft seat-back pockets. This rule comes in response to the potential dangers of having PEDs loose in the aircraft cabin. The bulletin states: ‘Injuries have been reported by passengers being struck by PEDs during turbulence events.’

Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said, “Qantas has conducted rigorous testing to assess the impacts of electronic devices on the safe operation of aircraft. We are confident that these devices are safe to be turned on, but in flight mode, for the duration of each flight.”

The airline will be required to update passenger safety material to include advice on the usage of PEDs, such as checklists, passenger safety cards, passenger briefing material and signage.

CASA’s Airworthiness Bulletin also dictated that pilots and cabin crew had to undergo training regarding the use of PEDs by passengers in-flight, for both emergency and non-emergency scenarios. Training will be provided in ‘techniques that may be used to deal with passengers that are using their PEDs in a disruptive or unsafe way (use of PED speakers instead of headphones, loud voice communications, etc.)’ as well as how to deal with ‘suspected or confirmed electromagnetic interference’ and ‘smoke or fire from a PED or battery’.

Qantas are now working on allowing passengers to access over 350 hours of in-flight entertainment on their PEDs from gate-to-gate using the airline’s Q Streaming application. Lyell Strambi concluded, “Qantas was the first Australian airline to introduce in-flight entertainment and provide wireless devices on board so it’s great to be able to capitalise on these features for our customers.”

Virgin Australia has also applied for the same rights from CASA and is currently awaiting permission to grant passengers gate-to-gate usage of PEDs on all mainline domestic and short-haul international flights.

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