iPhone vs the CAA

So ... on the way back to Vancouver some time ago (like 2-3 years ago), I brought my iPhone (2G) with me. And on the plane, like a good boy, I put the iPhone in "flight mode", meaning all the radio transmitters are immediately shut off and they don't emit radiowaves or radiation that might interfere with the aircraft's delicate electronics. Standard procedure, really.

But about mid-way through the flight, I'm using it to skip forward tracks, and one stewardess passing by (pushing the beverage cart) mentions something to another. All I heard was "iPhone", so I didn't think anything of it.

About a minute later, she comes back to me and very politely asks if this was an iPhone, to which I answer yes. She then tells me that I can't use it on the plane.

"Oh, but I put it on 'flight mode', so it's okay."
"No, sorry, you just can't use the iPhone at all on the flight."
"But in 'flight mode', all the radios and wireless are turned off, so it's just like a regular iPod now."
"According to CAA regulations, we don't allow mobile phones to be operated during the flight."
"With all the wireless turned off, it's no longer a mobile phone."
"We're told there's still some radiowaves."
"This is exactly my field of work, and I can tell you that the radio chips are not operating."
"I'm really sorry about this, it's just according to the CAA."

This is even more interesting/frustrating to me because I never had this problem when using my Sony Ericsson W800i on board.

Anyway, I leave it alone for now, pretending to put it away, but I keep using it anyhow, because dammit, I know I'm right. I think about it for a while, and then realize she said "CAA" instead of "FAA". Turns out CAA stands for Civil Aeronautics Administration, and is basically the FAA for Taiwan.

And while the FAA/TSA is quite clear about what you can and can't bring and/or operate during the flight, the CAA is a little less clear in its Information for Passengers. The CAA also doesn't really mention things specifically about airplane modes in their Laws, Regulations, Handbook & Guidelines. Even their Compliance and Enforcement Procedures webpage is still under construction!

Apple talks a bit about their airplane mode for the iPhone, but additionally mentions that you "should" be able to use it on the flights, along with disclaimers about checking with the flight authorities.

So ... has anyone else had any similar experiences with other mobile phones integrated with music players?? I suppose nowadays it's not really much of an issue. Heck, nowadays, I almost never turn my iPhone off on the plane -- I switch it to flight mode, start the music with my buds in my ears, and turn the display off. As a constant flyer, I have a well-rehearsed answer for when the flight attendants come by:
"They're not on; just using them as earplugs."

Which is a little white lie, because they are cutting out the drone of the plane noise, they're also serving as a digital music pipe into my head.


Anonymous said...

I've been on a domestic u.s. flight where the flight attendant asked a man to turn off his smartphone. He said it was on airplane mode. Attendant said their airline policy doesn't allow airplane mode.

Regardless of FAA or CAA regulations, airlines can impose their own stricter policies. Part of me doesn't mind disallowing airplane mode, because you know that the majority of iphone/smartphone users don't know how to switch it to airplane mode. (Just look at how many people don't know how to turn off the flash on their cameras). So they'll just be cluelessly using their phone during flight with gsm/wifi/bluetooth on.

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