Revealed: the real reason you can’t use your phone on a plane
Not long ago, airlines asked people to turn off devices completely during a flight, while today we are often asked to put them on airplane mode.
The use of mobile phones on board aircraft to call or text has always been prohibited on British airlines.
But many have wondered what happens if you forget to put your phone on airplane mode on a plane.
According to the civil aviation authority: ‘Scientific research has shown that mobile phones can disrupt the normal operation of aircraft equipment and can also cause interference in pilots’ headsets.’
Meanwhile, Skyscanner’s travel expert Laura Lindsay told us Condé Nast Traveler: ‘Although most cell phones do not emit strong radio waves, devices such as Kindles, iPods, laptops, and even portable gaming consoles all also emit radio waves, especially in a compact space.’
The use of mobile phones on board aircraft to call or text is always prohibited on UK airlines (stock image)
How does flight mode work?
Tamara Vallois, head of communications at Wizz Air, explained that even though phones are out of range of cell towers, they will still emit electrical signals in the search for this connection.
Enabling flight mode will disable cellular signals, meaning there will be absolutely no interference on the plane.
Dai Whittingham, CEO of the British Flight Safety Committee, told the newspaper BBC that airplane mode was historically important due to a lack of knowledge about how mobile devices affect airplanes.
“There was concern that they could interfere with the automatic flight control systems,” he said.
‘Experience has shown that the chance of interference is very small. The recommendation has always been that devices should be in airplane mode during flight.”
Concerns in the US that the use of 5G could disrupt flights are much less likely in Britain and the EU, he said.
“We have a different set of frequencies for 5G and there are lower power settings than those allowed in the US,” Mr Whittingham added.
Is there a danger if a passenger forgets to put their phone in airplane mode?
Tamara explained that if a passenger forgot to put their phone in flight mode, this would not pose any danger.
She said the flight crew would likely be able to tell if everyone forgot to turn off their devices due to the level of interference, but the plane would not malfunction or fall out of the sky as some might think.
Will the rule be abolished in the future?
As technology continues to advance, many hope that there will come a day when we no longer have to put our devices into airplane mode during a flight.
For many, however, not having access to the internet while flying offers a respite of sorts, a time to completely switch off and switch to vacation mode.
It was recently announced that calling will be allowed on EU flights from 2023.
The European Commission ruled that airlines can provide 5G technology on board planes, in addition to slower mobile data.
This could mean that fliers will no longer be required to put their phones on airplane mode, although the details of how this will be implemented are unclear.
Passengers can access their phone’s usual functions, including streaming music, receiving emails and scrolling through social media, just as they would on the ground using their 5G mobile network.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said: ‘5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies.
“The sky is no longer the limit when it comes to the possibilities offered by high-speed, high-capacity connectivity.”
The update enables widespread use of 5G services – a technology that will deliver download speeds of 100 Mbps, according to mobile network EE.
This means a 600MB movie can be downloaded in less than 37 seconds, the network said.
The EU member states had until June 30 this year to make the 5G frequency bands available.