Tourist in China Detained for 5 Days After Using Mobile Phone on Airplane

C. Custer
12:09 am on Oct 18, 2012

Don't do this in China.

Chinese airlines don’t care about your phone’s “airplane mode.” Using a mobile phone, even one with airplane mode, at any point during a flight in China is illegal. One Mr. Du learned this lesson the hard way recently when police arrested him and detained him for five days upon his arrival at the Beijing airport after an Air China flight from Vancouver.

During the flight, Mr. Du was using his phone to take photos and listen to music which, again, is not permitted on Chinese airlines. Airline staff on the flight asked him repeatedly to stop, but he refused, saying they were making a big fuss over nothing. After the flight landed in Beijing, Du was accosted by police who, unimpressed with his attitude, opted to detain him for five days, as is permitted under Chinese law.

As someone who has tried to use phones (only in airplane mode, of course) on Chinese flights before, I do understand Du’s frustration given that if airplane-mode phones caused crashes, the rest of the world would all be dead by now. But when reminded of the law, I always turn my phone off, because not being able to listen to music for a few hours is preferable to spending five days in a PSB detention cell. I have a feeling many of our readers travel to China and around for business every now and then, so consider this a public service announcement: turn off your phones unless you’re really curious about what the inside of PSB jail cells look like.

Interestingly, though, in Japan it seems that far worse behavior on planes is going unpunished. Recently a Japanese man who used a pen camera to take upskirt photos of a flight attendant was arrested and admitted guilt but was ultimately let off the hook after prosecutors failed to determine which prefecture the plane had been flying over when the incident occurred.

[Caijing via Sina Tech, Image via Shutterstock]

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

Replies
  • Jumbybird

    Good… Idiots and their dumbphones.

  • David Fieldman

    Very curious that he was detained for five days. We have seen far worse and more dangerous behavior by “frustrated” Chinese airline passengers who rush onto the tarmac to complain about flight delays, but are financially rewarded “compensated” by the airlines for being inconveniences due to the delay. Or the reduced penalty, or no penalty, but a warning, for people who call in a hoax to the airline. They are given a rap on their knuckles.

Read More