Do you remember the time, not long ago, when being on a flight gave you a chance to forget things and simply read a book or watch a movie?
Sadly, these days, people often feel like they have lost their right arm if they haven’t been able to see what others are doing on Facebook or message their “bestie” on WhatsApp for at least 10 minutes, so Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly more common on planes.
A few years ago, it would have been impossible to access the internet while flying, so you would be unable to use WhatsApp on a plane or any other application but it is becoming more common now.
The Quick Answer: Can I use WhatsApp on airplane mode? You can use WhatsApp on a plane if you have access to the aircraft’s wi-fi, but even so, in most cases, you will only be able to send WhatsApp text messages (chat) and not make voice or video calls as these require a faster connection than most aircraft currently provide.
Although you may be lucky and have free internet access on board, you generally have to pay to access the aircraft’s wifi connections, and what you can use it for is pretty limited.
Being able to stream videos and other high-data usage activities is unlikely to be available. I am sure that, given time, that ability will come.
Can you make a WhatsApp voice or video call on a plane?
With the limited speed and data restrictions available on most aircraft at the moment, you are unlikely to be able to use WhatsApp on a plane to make a voice call and almost certainly not a video call, as these require much greater bandwidth.
The same applies to any other messaging app, such as Facebook Messenger.
Generally, a plane’s Wi-Fi is only fast enough to allow you to receive and send text messages, send and receive emails, and perhaps access Facebook and other low-data usage functions.
Given time, I have no doubt that the speeds will increase to the point where almost all functions you use will be available, just as they are in your home or office.
However, on those airlines where fast internet is available, most of those airlines have banned or disabled voice and video calls as they would be annoying to other passengers.
Can you use WhatsApp on airplane mode?
Many people seem to think that once you hit the airplane mode button, all communication with the outside world is now switched off. Although that is true when you first switch to airplane mode, that doesn’t mean that you cannot switch some of the communication settings back on and for it to still be in airplane mode.
The main reason you have to switch on airplane mode before take-off is to switch off the cellphone capabilities of the phone, which, they say, can interfere with the aircraft’s systems.
Airplane mode turns off all communications when in this mode primarily because, until recently, wi-fi wasn’t available on aircraft, so there was no reason for it to be on.
This isn’t the case with Bluetooth, which you have been able to use with compatible headphones/earbuds etc, for some time. However, Bluetooth also gets switched off when entering airplane mode, so it needs to be switched back on.
Read my other post to find out more about using devices with Bluetooth headphones on a plane.
How to switch wifi on in airplane mode
How to do this may vary from phone to phone, but the principle will be the same on all phones. The following are examples on a Huawei Android phone and an iPhone.
This is the normal quick settings menu, which I access by swiping down from the top of my home screen (twice to open it fully) on my Android cellphone. As you can see, Wi-Fi (the first icon) is on, and airplane mode is switched off.
Turn on airplane mode by selecting it, and you can see that the cellphone functions have been switched off and Wi-Fi has been.
By clicking on the Wi-Fi icon, it is now switched back on, but the phone remains in Airplane Mode. The phone can now be used to access the wifi if available and your Whatsapp messages if desired.
How to connect to wifi on a plane
Each airline will have a slightly different way of using their wifi connection to their onboard Wi-Fi. The following are British Airways’ instructions on how to connect and pay for their Wi-Fi (called .air) as an example:
- If you are traveling on a Wi-Fi enabled aircraft, your crew will advise you once on board.
- Once cruising above 10,000ft, enable ‘flight mode’ on your device. Please decide which device you would like to use for the duration, as you will be unable to switch the connection between devices.
- Go to Wi-Fi settings on your device and join the ‘BAWi-Fi’ network.
- Open your web browser and the .air homepage will open automatically. If not, please type shop.ba.com into your web browser to register or log in.
- Select and purchase the Wi-Fi package that’s right for you. (You can choose different time periods and speed packages)
If the airline you are flying with has wifi, then you will find instructions on wifi connectivity on their website, on a card in front of your seat or in their inflight magazine. If not, you can just ask a member of the cabin crew.
If you are flying with another airline these airline inflight wifi articles may help.
Does it cost to use WhatsApp on a plane?
WhatsApp is a free app and all the services it provides are free. However, you may need to pay to access the aircraft’s in-flight Wi-Fi network, which can be very expensive.
Some airlines are starting to give limited use of the aircraft’s Wi-Fi system for free, particularly for first-class and business-class passengers.
Often, there are strict data limits, so you will be limited on what you can use it to do. That is why WhatsApp text messages are one of the things you can use, as text messages use very little data.
Can you use WhatsApp on a plane Internationally?
Whether you are flying internationally or domestically, it actually makes no difference to your ability to access WhatsApp on a plane or any other application, assuming that Wi-Fi is available on your flight.
WhatsApp allows you to contact others anywhere else in the world for no charge.
Can you access WhatsApp without WiFi or data on a plane?
Connecting to an aircraft’s Wi-Fi system is the only way you will be able to access WhatsApp on a plane.
You are not permitted to access your cellular connection while flying, which is why you must switch your phone to airplane mode before take-off, which switches off access to your internet connection to your mobile network.
So if the cellular network function is off, then so is the data function; therefore, messaging apps won’t work using that method.
Why can’t you make cellphone calls on a plane?
There are two reasons why you are not allowed to make cell phone calls on a plane, text on a plane or even have the cell phone capabilities of your phone switched on in flight.
- It is believed that the use of a cell phone in flight may interfere with the aircraft’s systems and cause them to malfunction. Obviously, in theory, at least, this could have catastrophic consequences for flight safety.
- The cellphone system uses transmitters/receivers at regular intervals, producing a “cell” – hence the name.
If you are stationary, then you are connected to the nearest cell.
If you travel in a car and move from one cell to another, the phone automatically transfers to the next cell. Cells are reasonably large, which means that, as you are unlikely to be traveling faster than 60–70 miles per hour, you will only move to a different cell, perhaps every few minutes or so.
If you are flying at 600mph or more, your phone will attempt to change cells every few seconds. This could not only confuse your phone but also could lead to disruption of the cell phone system.
The FAA states the following:
Electronics on Board
- The FCC and FAA ban cell phones for airborne use because their signals could interfere with critical aircraft instruments. Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular data connection disabled. You may use the Wi-Fi connection on your device if the plane has an installed Wi-Fi system and the airline allows its use.
- Visit FAA’s Portable Electronic Devices page for more information about using consumer electronics on U.S. flights.
Should voice calls be allowed on a plane?
Personally, I am quite happy that you can’t use your cell phone on a plane to make calls and, frankly, I hope that never changes.
Can you imagine being on a 12-hour flight and sitting near someone who is constantly making and receiving calls on their phone?
I have experienced this really annoying activity on trains many times and let me tell you, there are times when I have wanted to snatch the person’s phone and throw it out of the window, or put it somewhere! At least I couldn’t throw it out of the window on a plane.
To make matters worse, when people do make phone calls on a train, they always seem to talk more loudly than normal, which makes it even more annoying, and I am sure the same would be true if they were making phone calls on a plane as well.
Whatsapp Airplane Mode FAQs
Can I access WhatsApp on a plane?
You can access WhatsApp on a plane, provided you have in-flight Wi-Fi during the flight. However, this varies depending on the airline’s policy and the services offered on the aircraft.
Does WhatsApp use a lot of data if I use it on a plane?
If you are using Whatsapp using a plane’s wifi service then you will not be using any data. Since phones must be in Airplane Mode while flying, access to cellular data is switched off.
Do all airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi that can support WhatsApp?
Not all airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi, and among those that do, the strength and speed of the connection can vary. Some airlines might offer Wi-Fi that is fast enough for messaging but not for voice or video calls.
Can I use WhatsApp’s voice and video call feature on a plane?
This depends on the airline’s policy and the quality of the in-flight Wi-Fi. Some airlines may restrict voice and video calls even if the Wi-Fi could technically support it, as it can disturb other passengers.
Is it free to use WhatsApp on a plane?
While WhatsApp itself is free, you might need to pay for the in-flight Wi-Fi service. Prices vary by airline. Some airlines might offer limited free Wi-Fi, but you’d need to check their specific policies.
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