Virgin, Qantas will let you keep your smartphone on in flight

In-flight laptop
Laptops, unfortunately, will still need to be stowed away

Virgin Australia and Qantas have announced that they now have approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to allow customers to use their personal electronic devices 'gate-to-gate'.

This means that customers will no longer need to turn off their smartphones and tablets - personal hand-held electronic devices weighing less than 1kg - during all phases of their flight, including take-off and landing.

Any devices heavier than 1kg, including laptops, will need to be stowed away for takeoff and landing.

Staying connected

The approval has been granted starting from this morning for Virgin Australia, while Qantas customers will need to wait until 3pm before they can begin flying with their phones still on.

"We know that a significant proportion of our customers travel with at least one smartphone or tablet, which demonstrates how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience," said Virgin Australia Chief Customer Officer Mark Hassell.

Qantas' approval covers all domestic and international flights, while Virgin Australia's approval covers all domestic flights and some short-haul international services on its Boeing 737, Embraer E190 and Airbus A330 planes.

Those on Virgin Australia's regional ATR 72 turboprops and long-haul international Boeing 777-300ERs will still need to turn their phones and tablets off. QantasLink, Jetstar and Virgin Australia New Zealand planes are not approved either.

Testing, testing

Virgin Australia has said that its other aircraft will require further testing and approval, while Qantas has said that it has conducted "rigorous testing to assess the impacts of electronic devices on the safe operation of aircraft."

Customers will still be required to listen to pre-flight safety briefing, and phones, tablets or any other devices with transmitting signals will need to be switched to "flight mode" - so you still won't be able to make calls or connect to the internet.

It should be noted, however, that Telstra has been working to give customers in-flight 4G with what it is calling its Skinet network.

The new approvals might also mean that Qantas may trial in-flight Wi-Fi again, though it had cancelled its initial trials back in 2012.