So many people cannot seem to live without their cellphones these days and want to be using them almost 24/7. To them, being unable to use it during a flight would seem like they had lost a limb. That is pretty sad.
While your cell phone will work on a plane it will have to be switched to flight mode during the flight.
Can you take cellular phones on an airplane?
You can take your cell phone on a plane with you in your pocket or your carry on bag.
You will need to place it with any other portable electronic devices you have in a separate bin from your carry on bag when it passes through the x-ray screening.
You can also place a cellphone in your checked bag but, of course, you won’t have access to it during the flight. You would be advised to switch it off before putting it in your suitcase.
Can you get cell service on an airplane?
As most people know, it is a requirement of both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Communications Commission to have your phone either powered off or set in Airplane or Flight Mode when taxiing, during take-off, landing and also while in the air.
If you forget, a flight attendant is certain to remind you during the preflight briefing.
When a phone is switched to Airplane Mode it no longer has access to a cellular network.
Not having a cellular connection means that you cannot make mobile phone calls, send text messages, or access cellular data through your internet provider.
Also read: Can You Text on a Plane?
Can you use your phone on a plane in airplane mode?
Although cell phones/smartphones must have Flight Mode switched on, you can still use a mobile phone in a number of ways.
You can play games, listen to music, take a selfie or use any other apps that do not require you to stay connected to the internet.
But if the flight you are on has in-flight wi-fi, you can use that internet access on your cell phone to use many other apps to send messages, answer emails and listen to music using a streaming service but, of course, you still will not be able to make or receive a cellphone call.
Also read: Can you charge your phone on a plane
Do cell phones work on airplanes?
As your cell phone will have to be in airplane mode while on board you will not be able to receive a cellular service nor will you be able to make phone calls. This also applies to any other personal electronic devices you have which have access to a network.
Personally, I am pretty happy that you can’t use your cell phone on a plane to make calls and, frankly, I really hope that never changes. Unfortunately, there are some rumors that this may become possible in the future although there seems to be some strong resistance against it.
In theory, you could make voice or video calls via apps such as Whatsapp on a phone if you have access to the aircraft’s wifi.
However, voice and video calls are actually banned by many airlines such as:
- United Airlines – “Please note that we do not allow the use of our inflight internet service for voice communication or videoconferencing through a cell phone, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or any similar device or service. Voice and video calls are expressly prohibited.” See our article United Airlines wifi
- Delta Airlines – “Delta will not allow cellular calls or internet-based voice communications onboard Delta or Delta Connection flights. Our customer research and direct feedback tell us that our frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience”. See Delta Airlines wifi
- Alaska Airlines – “Electronic voice communications of any kind (i.e. cell, VoIP, Skype calls) are not allowed during flights. Mobile phone calls may only take place while the boarding door is open at the departure city, and while taxiing to the gate upon arrival. At all other times, phones must be turned off, or placed in airplane/game mode for use as a small personal electronic device.”
It seems that Qantas does allow in flight calls:
In First, Business and Premium Economy cabins on our A380 aircraft you can send and receive text messages, make inflight phone calls and perform seat to seat calls all from the comfort of your seat with our inflight telecommunication service. This service is also available in the lower deck of Economy on the A380.
Why do I think being able to make cell phone voice calls would be a bad idea?
Can you imagine being on a 12-hour flight and sitting near other passengers who are constantly making and receiving calls on their phones? It would be awful.
I have experienced this really annoying activity on trains many times and for some reason, people on trains talk much louder than normal, and I am sure the same would happen on planes too. Let me tell you, there are times when I have wanted to snatch the person’s phone out of their hands and throw it out of the window of the train or stick it somewhere!
What happens if you use your phone on a plane?
There are two main reasons why cellphone use is not permitted to make voice calls via a cellular network:
It is feared that the aircraft’s systems may be disrupted by cell phone use due to electromagnetic interference.
Disruption to network
A mobile phone automatically links to the nearest cell tower. If you are moving in a car it will then change to the next closest cell tower. This isn’t a problem for the network as cars travel relatively slowly so will only change from tower to tower after at least some minutes.
When flying at say 600 miles per hour, 10 times fatser than in a car, the phone will be constantly changing between cell towers which could throw the network into chaos, particularly in a very busy peice of airspace.
What might the outcome be if you are caught?
My advice would be don’t wait to find out – just don’t do it.
If you were to switch airplane mode off on your phone and attempt to make a cellphone call for one thing you would be breaking the FAA and FCC regulations so you could potentially be prosecuted. The airline may also ban you from using their services in the future.
This is a video from a pilot explaining why can’t you use your phone on a plane:
Cellphone on a plane FAQs
What happens when someone calls you in Airplane mode?
If someone tries to call you while your phone is switched to Airplane Mode they will just get a message stating that you are unavailable at that time. They will normally be able to leave you a voice message which you can pick up once your phone comes off of airplane mode.
Will I get roaming charges if my phone is on Airplane mode?
Since your phone cannot connect to a cellular connection while it is in Airplane Mode you will not get any roaming charges.
Can you use mobile data on a plane?
When you are on a plane you must have Airplane Mode active on your phone. This means that you cannot access your mobile data.
What can I do on my phone on a plane?
You can do anything on your cell phone that doesn’t need access to your cellular network which includes playing games, taking photos, listening to music, reading, and watching movies (if you have previously downloaded them).