Children’s cell phones worry airlines

( As the summer vacation season approaches, airlines are growing increasingly concerned about children bringing cell phones, portable video game consoles and other electronic devices onto planes, as they could interfere with navigation systems.

Airlines are especially concerned about children’s cell phones, which contain a built-in crime prevention function that automatically restarts the phone if it is switched off.

In March last year, NTT DoCoMo Inc. introduced the Kids Keitai, which includes a built-in global positioning system that allows the handset to send e-mails or transmit a signal notifying parents of their current location.

About 390,000 units had been sold by NTT DoCoMo as of April this year, and KDDI Corp. has also introduced similar models with the same function.

With the number of young passengers set to increase over the holiday period, airlines are planning various measures to warn passengers of the need to restrict the use of such devices.

Though the crime-prevention function on the children’s handsets can be suspended by inputting a preregistered code, many passengers turn the phones off without doing so, meaning the cell phones can restart during the flight.

All Nippon Airways has called on passengers to suspend the function, and since July has been displaying posters that instruct passengers on how to switch off the power properly.

But many passengers forget their suspension codes, meaning they are unable to switch the phones off at the boarding gates.

ANA and Japan Airlines have held talks with cell phone companies over the issue and airlines now have tools onboard planes enabling the removal of batteries, so phones can be switched off without the code.

ANA said the phones have not caused any serious problems. But a company official said if passengers do not know how to switch the phone off they should notify check-in staff or flight attendants.

The latest portable video game consoles, such as the Nintendo DS and Sony’s PlayStation Portable, also are potential sources of trouble for airlines as they are equipped with wireless communication devices for online gaming.

Airlines currently have flight attendants ask passengers using such consoles to turn off the wireless communication function.

You also may want to read this related article: Why to switch off your cell phone during flight