man using his phone not in airplane mode while flying

Does Your Phone Really Need to be in Airplane Mode When Flying?

Passengers typically take their seats, fasten their seatbelts, and switch their cell phones into airplane mode when flying. It’s become so common that it’s a habit for frequent travelers.

However, have you ever wondered what really happens if you skip the last step? Could it cause a catastrophe? 

Today, we’re tackling this topic to help you avoid any issues and to have a smooth and safe flight.

Let’s take off!

What Is Airplane Mode?

Airplane mode is a setting on high-tech gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It turns off connections with cellular networks and other networks. The goal is to limit the signals emitted by these devices, which can cause issues for the plane’s navigation and communication systems.

Despite its name, airplane mode is also helpful in other situations. Hospitals and other areas with large amounts of electronic devices will encourage individuals to activate the setting. While it may temporarily reduce the phone’s functionality, it increases safety.

Does Your Phone Really Need to be in Airplane Mode When Flying?

Yes, your phone needs to be in airplane mode when flying. For starters, it’s a federal requirement that passengers activate airplane mode on their electronics. You’re messing with federal agencies by purposefully choosing to ignore the rule.

If they discover you’re willfully disobeying the order, they could make an example out of you. Trust us, you don’t want to poke the bear. They tend to take punishments and fines very seriously. Don’t do the crime unless you’re ready to pay the fine or do the time.

Reasons to Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode

If you’re still on the fence, we’ve compiled a few reasons for putting your phone in airplane mode. Consider these when making your decision as to whether to use airplane mode or not.

Interference with Aircraft Systems

One of the biggest reasons to use airplane mode is to limit radio interference. The large gathering of devices from passengers could cause conflicts with the aircraft’s communication and navigation systems.

Manufacturers have made modern aircraft systems with increased resistance to these interferences. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We don’t know about you, but we don’t want to make the pilot’s job any harder than it needs to be.

Regulatory Compliance

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the regulatory body that mandates the use of airplane mode during certain phases of flight. Typically, this is during take-off and landing, the most critical times when communication is vital.

Failure to follow the crew’s instructions could result in federal charges, massive fines, and suspension from the airlines. Is this something you want to leave to chance? 

Reducing Battery Usage

If you’re wondering, the cell signal is terrible when cruising at 30,000 feet in a metal tube. By not turning your phone in airplane mode, your phone will constantly be searching for a signal. This extra effort can drain your battery very quickly.

If you’re on a long flight, you may land and discover you now have a dead battery. This can become a significant problem if you have a layover, need to arrange an Uber, or contact a loved one to pick you up. Turning your phone into airplane mode allows you to conserve your battery for when you need it most.

What Happens If You Don’t Put Your Phone On Airplane Mode?

There has never been an airplane crash resulting from a passenger not turning on airplane mode. Does that mean there’s never been someone who’s accidentally forgotten to put their phone in airplane mode? Absolutely not.

In reality, a single passenger forgetting to activate airplane mode isn’t going to do much. However, having 100 to 150 passengers join them could cause serious communication issues. The frequencies could make it difficult for the pilot to communicate with other air traffic and the nearest control tower.

Unless you’re making a scene about it, the odds of anyone discovering your violation are rare. Flight attendants and crew aren’t typically checking phones to ensure everyone obeys the rules. However, even though the risk is low, you should still follow the law.

Does 5G Cell Service Change Things?

We have good and bad news if you’d like to use your phone while flying. In many other countries with well-established 5G cell networks, they can use their phones without issue. Throughout the UK and EU, it’s becoming the norm. As of June 30, 2023, 5G frequencies are available for airlines and passengers.

Unfortunately, US officials are more hesitant about how 5G networks will impact air traffic. The biggest concern is the interference it could cause with altimeters, which helps pilots know how far they are from the ground. These are critical when flying through bad weather or low visibility conditions.

Don’t Forget to Turn on Airplane Mode

Whether airplane mode will be a thing of the past or not, we encourage you to use it. While everybody wants to arrive safely, nobody wants to get stuck by the person obnoxiously talking on their phone the entire time. So, do yourself a favor and double-check to ensure you’ve activated airplane mode before your next flight takes off.

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