When you’re traveling by plane, one of the main concerns you’re likely to have is whether you’re allowed to use your cell phone on the plane. Perhaps you want to make an emergency call or stay connected with your loved ones all through the flight. So, can you use your phone on a plane and what are the consequences of doing so? Read on to find out the answer.
Can You Use Your Phone on a Plane?
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In general, you’re not allowed to use your cell phone on a plane because the cellular service will send cellular signals that are likely to interfere with the airplane’s instrumentation, posing serious security risks.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to use your phone completely while on the plane. You can still use your cell phone and any other device with a cellular connection on the plane as long as you’ve put them on airplane mode. This mode helps to disconnect your device from the cellular signals coming from your cellular service thus reducing the risk of interfering with the plane’s communication equipment.
When your cell phone is in airplane mode, you can’t make calls or send text messages. However, you can use your phone to do other things, including playing video games, watching downloaded videos, listening to podcasts, taking pictures, reading downloaded e-books, and other tasks that don’t require the phone to be connected to your cellular network.
Putting your cell phone on airplane mode means that it loses the radio-frequency transmission of the cellular signal thus turning off your cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections. The same happens to other devices like tablets, laptops, Bluetooth headphones, etc. The total disconnection from your family, friends, colleagues, and business partners may feel like a hassle but it’s for your own safety and that of fellow travelers.
Although forgetting to put your cell phone or Smartwatch on airplane mode doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the world, it can have a major impact on the plane’s communication systems, especially when every passenger on the plane has their cellular gadgets turned on. That’s why airlines across the world insist on putting all devices on airplane mode while on the plane.
But you shouldn’t despair because some airlines are now offering inflight entertainment services. Some are even allowing their passengers to access their inflight Wi-Fi and free messaging using apps like Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, etc. This keeps you connected to your loved one while on the airplane.
These inflight entertainment services are mainly available on long-haul flights as a way of keeping passengers entertained and killing boredom. So, you need to understand that not every airline offers these entertainment services. Most local and domestic flights are likely not to have these services because their flights are shorter.
So, confirm if your preferred airline offers Wi-Fi and other inflight entertainment services before you book your flight, especially if these services are important to you. You also need to note that while Wi-Fi and messaging services are free for all, on flights that offer inflight entertainment, voice calls on these messaging apps aren’t allowed.
Every airline has specific rules and regulations regarding the usage of inflight messaging services. Therefore, you should contact your flight forwarder for clarification before you book your flight. If the airline allows you to make calls using messaging apps, have some courtesy when conversing with your loved ones.
Don’t use vulgar or disrespectful language, and keep your voice down. One of the reasons why many people prefer to travel by plane is because of the peace and quiet it provides. You shouldn’t be a bother to fellow passengers.
Whether you’re in business class or economy class, it’s good to be mindful of other passengers sitting next to you. Some flights have passengers cramped in small spaces where it becomes extremely uncomfortable when the person sitting next to you doesn’t want to keep their voice down when making calls.
You also need to wear headphones or earphones when listening to podcasts, music, and other entertainment files on the plane. Don’t assume that the people sitting next to you will enjoy the content. Broadcasting it loudly will disturb the peace of other passengers.
It’s also important to reduce the brightness of your screen when watching videos or playing games. This is important because the person seated next to you could be trying to relax or fall asleep. Understand that everyone on the plane is trying to get through the long-haul flight.
So allow them to be comfortable by enjoying your calls and entertainment privately. If you become unruly or violate the laid down rules and regulations of using your phone on the plane, the airline and flight attendants are allowed to take other disciplinary actions against you, including holding your device or restraining you.
Do You Need to Use Airplane Mode?
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As mentioned above, many airlines require their passengers to put their cell phones in flight mode when on the airplane. However, there are those that offer inflight entertainment services that include connecting to the Wi-Fi, sending texts, chatting, and making calls through messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
These services enable you to use your phone when you need to. But the question is: Do you really have to use your phone on the plane? The answer is it depends.
For instance, you may want to make an emergency call to your family, friends, colleagues, or business partner while on the plane. This means that you’ll need your device to connect to the people on the other end of your call. The good thing is that you can still make calls and send messages while your phone is in airplane mode, thanks to these messaging apps.
As discussed above, airlines ask passengers to put their phones and other cellular devices in airplane mode to prevent the electromagnetic interference caused by such devices when they’re connected to cellular signals. Many airplanes in use today were built before the emergence of cellular technology.
So, their communication systems are likely to be adversely affected by electromagnetic interference thus putting everyone on board at risk. But the latest airplanes come with advanced communication systems that are protected from this interference.
That’s why you’ll find tablets, cellphones, and other cellular devices in the flight deck that pilots and flight attendants use to manage flights. These devices are extensively tested to ensure they don’t interfere with the plane’s communication systems. However, some parts of modern airplanes have been shown to be quite susceptible to electromagnetic interference.
So, many airlines are still cautious about allowing passengers to keep their devices turned on. Therefore, they continue to demand that all passengers must turn their airplane modes on when they board their planes. This is expected to continue until all parts of modern airplanes are proven to be fully safe from electromagnetic interference.
Can You Use Bluetooth on a Plane?
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As noted above, all Bluetooth devices, including Bluetooth earphones are allowed on the plane provided that they remain on airplane mode all through the flight, unless the airline’s rules and regulations indicate otherwise. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows you to use your Bluetooth headsets in all phases of the flight as long as you can keep them in flight mode.
However, you can confirm from your flight attendant whether the airline offers inflight Wi-Fi and Bluetooth entertainment services. If it does, then you’re allowed to turn on your Bluetooth connection functionality on your headphones. Some airlines prohibit the use of Bluetooth headphones in certain phases of the flight like during takeoff and landing.
In these phases of the flight, you can only use your headphones using connection cords. This means that your Bluetooth headsets must be put on flight mode during takeoff and landing.