Australia’s safety regulator CASA, says it is satisfied with the inability of the country’s airlines to enforce bans on the transmit and receive use of personal electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

That is the only conclusion travellers could reach after reading this article posted on the Australian Transport Safety Bureau website after a member of the public used its REPCON or voluntary confidential aviation reporting scheme.

The ATSB recently received a confidential report from an airline passenger concerned that passengers were using their 3G mobile devices onboard a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. The report below outlines the passenger’s concerns along with the ATSB’s response and advice to the travelling public.


Report narrative:
The reporter expressed a safety concern about the use of 3G mobile devices onboard a Syd-Melb flight. The reporter, who is a regular traveller, observes that passengers are using these devices more and more frequently, texting and using internet connectivity during flight. The reporter believes that cabin crew do not take this safety matter seriously and often do not adequately warn passengers to turn off electronic devices or that the devices should be in flight mode.

REPCON supplied the operator with the de-identified report. The following is a version of their response:

Cabin safety has advised that a review of our occurrence database from 01/01/11 shows that on over 500 occasions cabin crew have reported the hazard of passengers using their mobile phones and personal electronic devices (PEDs) onboard. It is felt that the sheer volume of reports received in relation to passenger non-compliance with our PED policy illustrates that cabin crew are very aware of the regulatory requirements and company policies on this matter and are very vigilant in ensuring compliance, particularly during the pre-departure preparations as the cabin is being secured for takeoff.

In addition, it’s quite possible that onboard passengers writing text messages are constructing them whilst their phones are in flight mode. It is also not possible for cabin crew to manage passenger use of PEDs during takeoff and/or the descent phase as the cabin crew must be seated. The reports we receive also highlight passenger reluctance and attitudes towards PED usage and the belief it is the operator’s policy and not a regulatory requirement. However, the operator honestly believes the hundreds of reports that come through each year show that our cabin crew take passenger use of PEDs at inappropriate times very seriously.

In addition, the PED policy is currently part of the cabin crew recurrent emergency procedures curriculum and is covered in the “Standard Operating Procedures” section of the training day. The proliferation of PEDs has made the potential much higher for non-compliance but it is not possible for cabin crew to check that all PEDs are switched to flight mode and then off. In this respect cabin crew act in good faith that passengers are compliant, responsible and accountable themselves.

REPCON supplied CASA with the deidentified report and a version of the operator’s response. The following is a version of the response that CASA provided:

CASA has reviewed this matter with internal subject matter experts and has examined the operator’s procedures, CASA is satisfied with the operator’s response.


ATSB comment:
The use of mobile phones and other electronic devices is restricted as they could interfere with vital aircraft navigation systems. Current regulations give aircraft crew the power to prohibit the use of any device which can threaten the safety of an aircraft. It is very important that passengers listen to and comply with announcements from the cabin crew when these restrictions apply.

CASA’s response may well reflect the reality of mass public disobedience on board jets in relation to electronic devices.


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