Only SAA allows cellphones on flights

Johannesburg - South African Airways (SAA) is currently the only airline that can test the feasibility of using cellphones on its flights, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) said on Friday.

"The Sacaa wishes to clarify that despite reports from some media outlets, SAA to date is the only operator/airline that officially applied and received the requisite exemption to test this possibility," spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said.

He said SAA was granted a six-month exemption in January and that the testing phase started on April 15.

One of the conditions of the exemption was that the airline submit a detailed proposal on how it would monitor the use of cellphones during flights.

The Sacaa would in addition conduct its own monitoring, Ledwaba said.

"The initial testing phase is for six months and, depending on the results of these tests, the Sacaa may conclude the testing phase or may request further tests."

The testing would take place on certain domestic routes, for each aircraft type in the SAA fleet and at certain specified times of the day.

There would also be onboard announcements advising passengers that testing would be conducted and guidelines on what the tests would entail.

He said the civil aviation regulator and the aeronautical information circular still prohibited the use of certain electronic devices, including cellphones on flights.

However, it acknowledged that technology advanced rapidly and the fact that airlines showed interest in testing the feasibility of using cellphones of flights came as no surprise.
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