(The following entry first appeared as the second Comment in Flight International 4 December 2012)
British Airways' announcement that - following consultations with the UK Civil Aviation Authority - it is to allow customers to continue using in-flight entertainment systems and headsets during approach and landing is a welcome enhancement in terms of passenger experience. But an unfortunate, if unintended, consequence will be the exacerbation of confusion among passengers over what they are and are not allowed to do depending on which airline they happen to be flying with that day.
Is it safe, for example, for passengers to use their mobile phones onboard a taxiing airliner while its engines are running? The lack of industry consensus on this and other "cabin safety" issues is undermining the ability of crew to plausibly persuade passengers to comply with whatever rules their particular employer adopts. BA does not allow use of mobile phones during taxiing because they "may interfere with the aircraft's systems". But travellers arriving at BA's London Heathrow base on board an aircraft operated by its alliance partner Cathay Pacific are informed immediately after landing that it is perfectly fine to switch on phones and use them during the taxi to the gate. So either BA is needlessly prohibiting phone use, or Cathay Pacific and its Hong Kong regulator are wrong to allow it.
Regardless, airlines and regulators need to agree coherent rules and apply them consistently if cabin crew are to be reasonably expected to enforce them.