Turkish airline companies skeptical about allowing phones

Turkish airline companies skeptical about allowing phones

Tolga Özbek ISTANBUL
Turkish airline companies skeptical about allowing phones

Turkish carriers are cool towards allowing mobile phone and gadget usage in planes. AA photo

Turkish airline companies are awaiting the national civil aviation body’s decision over cell phone usage on planes after the organization’s European counterpart ruled that electronic devices did not pose a safety risk.

However, leading Turkish airlines say they are cool to the idea of permitting passengers to use electronic devices for the moment, fearing fallout from concerned passengers’ sense of safety.

Over the past weekend, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that airlines could now permit passengers to use electronic devices such as mobile phones during flights, which could also pave the way for airlines to offer wireless communication services.

EASA members consist of European member countries, so Turkey is not bound by the agency’s decisions.

However, Turkey’s General Directorate of Civil Aviation (SHGM) watches EASA rulings and usually applies them to the Turkish civil aviation sector.

Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) said it currently allows passengers to use their mobile electronic devices only in “flight mode” and above around 6,600 meters.

“Passengers can use their cell phones or mobile electronic devices until the door of the plane is closed and the engine starts working. However, all electronic devices are kept switched off until warning signs are turned off when the planes reach 20,000 feet (around 6,600 meters),” THY Media Counselor Ali Genç said in a written statement sent to daily Hürriyet.

Current regulations in Europe also require passengers to keep their devices set to “airplane” mode to prevent them from emitting radio signals that could interfere with the aircraft.

“The new guidance allows airlines to permit personal electronic devices to stay switched on, without the need to be in airplane mode,” the EASA had said in a statement Sept. 26. “This is the latest regulatory step toward enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or WiFi services.”

Sertaç Haybat, the CEO of Turkey’s largest airline, Pegasus, also said they were waiting for the SGHM’s decision but expressed the company’s concerns over passengers.

“When a passenger sees another passenger speaking on the phone on the plane, he or she gets worried,” he said.

However, the CEO also said their new A320neo order from Airbus would enable them to provide wireless Internet services on their new planes.

Altasjet Chairman Murat Ersoy also expressed skepticism about allowing wireless Internet, but vowed to make “some changes according to a decision to be taken by the authority.”