It turns out that China was actually serious when it warned passengers against using phones on planes last year. Shockingly serious, in fact.
From January 5th to February 6th, Beijing police detained three passengers for allegedly using mobile phones mid-flight, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said last week.
Of those travelers, one female passenger arriving in Beijing from Harbin last month had refused to turn off her phone when the plane was taking off and then insisted on making calls during the flight. She was jailed for five days.
Another female passenger was detained for three days for simply using her phone on a flight from Nanchang, Jiangxi province to Beijing on February 5th. The following day, another passenger was jailed for five days upon arriving in Beijing for allegedly “listening to music on a cell phone during takeoff and landing.”
If you’re thinking that that sounds a tad extreme for behavior that is fairly commonplace on international flights, you’re not alone.
While the general theory is that a phone’s mobile signals could interfere with a plane’s sensitive electronic instruments, there is no direct evidence for this claim. While most foreign carriers allow passengers to use their mobile phones on board as long as they are set to “airplane mode,” for whatever reason, China’s aviation authority isn’t convinced that airplane mode blocks out all “potentially harmful” signals.
This resulted last year in the CAAC amending the Civil Aviation Law, proposing a hefty fine of up to 50,000 RMB ($7,200) and a maximum of five days in jail for 14 types of illegal behavior that endanger public safety on domestic Chinese airline flights. While most of these rules were fairly straightforward (No beating crew and other workers. No opening the emergency exit), it also included a total prohibition on using mobile phones during flight (but not laptops or tablets).
Though, considering that in a month-long span, only three passengers were apparently punished under the regulation, we are going to guess that enforcement is less than total.
[Images via china.org.cn]
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