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Australia's Qantas, Virgin allow smartphones throughout flights

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian airlines Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said passengers can use smartphones and tablets throughout flights from Tuesday after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices on planes.

The airlines said they would start letting passengers use personal electronic devices for the duration of their flight after Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority followed a similar ruling from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013.

The Australian airlines will hope giving customers almost continuous access to personal devices will increase their appeal as they engage in a price war with each other and other market participants. Currently, passengers are forced to switch off devices until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

The two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week.

"We're delighted to give Qantas customers the freedom and flexibility to use their personal electronic devices from the moment they board the plane until they disembark," Qantas Domestic chief executive officer Lyell Strambi said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said the high number of passengers who travel with a smartphone or tablet shows "how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience".

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Michael Perry)

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