Author: Gloria Mutuku
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?

Category: Ethics

If you own a mobile phone or tablet, you are already familiar with the airplane mode feature. You are probably wondering what it is and if it is essential. This article will inform you all you need to know about airplane mode, why it is necessary to turn it on when boarding an airplane, and what happens if you don't.

Airplane mode is a setting on a smartphone or tablet specifically designed for use when traveling on airplanes. When turned on, the airplane mode stops all transmission of signals, which could otherwise interfere with the aircraft's communication systems.
I indulged in intense research on this topic and I will be sharing these findings with you including the following: Is it bad/safe to keep airplane mode on? Why do you have to put your phone on airplane mode when you fly and what if you don't? And do you have to keep your phone on airplane mode the entire flight?

What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?

Air traffic controllers on the ground use high-frequency radio systems or satellites to communicate with nearby airplanes. The technology has a traffic collision avoidance system to avoid mid-air collisions. For this reason, all passengers in an airplane are advised to put their mobile phones and tablets on airplane mode, also known as flight mode, to cut out signals that could interfere with these communications.

What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?


What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?

Ever wondered what airplane mode does to your device? When you turn on the airplane mode or flight mode, an airplane icon will appear on the notification bar of your Android device, iPhone, or iPad. Depending on the airplane mode results in disabling all the wireless transmission functions of your device. Depending on airplane mode disables the following:

  • Wi-fi: When you turn on airplane mode, your device disconnects from wi-fi networks. It will also stop searching for and trying to connect to any wi-fi networks that may be close by.
  • Bluetooth: Also, Bluetooth connections will be turned off when you enable the airplane mode on your device. If you use Bluetooth for your headset, keyboard, or mouse, your Bluetooth will be disabled.
  • Cellular networks: Something else that airplane mode does is disabling your cellular communication. With airplane mode turned on, your device loses the ability to make or receive voice calls or SMS messages. Everything that relies on cellular data will stop; this includes the ability to browse the internet.
  • GPS: For some devices, airplane mode disables GPS functions. GPS helps you know exactly where you are on Earth, but your device will lose this function with airplane mode turned on.

The level of inactivity that results from airplane mode will leave you wondering why it is necessary. One of the most significant necessities for turning on airplane mode on your device is boarding an airplane. Interestingly, this setting derived the popular name "airplane mode" or "flight mode" because many airlines prohibit wireless devices on their planes, mostly during takeoff and landing.

Devices like cellphones emit powerful radio waves and electromagnetic interference (EMI). It is also worth noting that cellular devices are always trying to find a way to communicate with cell towers to keep the connection alive. If this connection is distant, it forces the device to find ways to boost its signal.

The negative effect of this form of communication is that it will interfere with the airplane's sensors. This often results in problems with sensitive navigation equipment on the plane. In some instances, it disrupts communication with air traffic control at the destination airport. For this reason, many airlines ban the use of such devices in airplanes.

Moreover, other than when boarding a plane, turning on the airplane mode is still necessary. This is because this setting offers a brilliant way to save battery power on your device. As much as airplane mode will limit you from receiving any phone calls or messages, it is an excellent power-saving trick.

Is it bad to keep airplane mode on?


What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?

Keeping airplane mode on has its fair share of disadvantages. For starters, with airplane mode turned on, you cut off communication with cell towers. Therefore, you will be unable to send or receive SMS messages. You will also lose the ability to make and receive phone calls. This can cause worry and panic from loved ones who may be trying to reach you.

The fact that your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks will be disabled is another bad thing. When you keep airplane mode on, your device will lose the Bluetooth links with headsets, your mouse, or your keyboard. The device will also be unable to scan for nearby Wi-Fi networks. This lack of a connection can result in missing out on important work emails.

Is airplane mode safe?

There is an excellent correlation between airplane mode and safety. First and foremost, there is the issue of safety for airplanes. Airplane mode has been proven to go a long way in boosting the overall security of flights. When everyone turns on airplane mode, there will be no interference in communication, most notably during landing and takeoff.

The other vital issue is your safety. Your wireless device generates a certain level of radiation. This radiation includes both radio frequencies and microwaves that are classified as non-ionizing radiation. Scientific research is still in progress to find out the effects of prolonged exposure to non-ionizing radiation.

All in all, studies have increasingly shown potential damages like increased risk of cancer or infertility among men. Therefore, airplane mode is relatively safe for you.

Why do you have to put your phone on airplane mode when you fly?


What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) prohibits the use of mobile phones in a flight. And they have good reasons for setting up this restriction. One of the reasons you need to put your phone on airplane mode when you fly is that active cell phones can interfere with the plane's navigation equipment.

Pilots have reported the negative effects they face when their passengers leave their devices active during a flight. The transmitting signals of your device are believed to cause substantial interference on the aircraft's radios. This interference can be likened to the sound produced by a CD player during skipping.

As a result of this interference, there is a high potential for blockage radio frequencies for numerous seconds. This leads to confusion between pilots and air traffic control. The good news is that your phone will not necessarily contribute to a plane crash. However, the interference it causes can really irritate pilots and air traffic controllers and even distract them from their work.

Another reason FCC regulations ban devices, specifically cell phones in planes, is to protect cell phones on the ground. At approximately 40,000 feet in the air, active cell phones will attempt to pick up service from multiple cell towers on the ground. This has the potential of crowding up the network, thereby interfering with service.

With these considerations in mind, we believe you now have a clear picture of why you need to put your phone in airplane mode when you fly.

What Happens When You Don't Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode?

Flying is all about rules and safety. You are probably curious about what can happen when you don't put your phone in airplane mode while flying. Here are the possible effects of going against this rule:

  • You will interfere with the service of those left on the ground: Phones will always try to find a way to connect while in the air. They will try to pick up service from cell towers on the ground. At the same time, phones on the ground require this same service. Therefore, when flying with an active phone, you will be causing network problems to phones on the ground.
  • You will disrupt the work of pilots and air controllers: Failure to put your phone on airplane mode is annoying to pilots and air controllers. This is due to the interference implicated on aircraft radios. The pilots will hear the buzzing sound of the interference instead of important safety information being relayed to them. Communication and airplane navigation can be negatively impacted when phones are left active during flying.
  • You will shorten your battery life: As your phone struggles to get a connection from the cell towers on the ground, it uses more battery power. You were leaving your phone active while flying means that your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks will be active. This results in a significant drain on your battery power, thereby shortening the battery life.

Do You Have to Keep Your Phone on Airplane Mode the Entire Flight?

The answer to this question is “Yes.” Airplane mode must remain on during the entire flight. You are probably tempted to turn airplane mode on and off during your flight, but we highly discourage this. It is safe for you to have your Android smartphone or iPhone on airplane mode during the whole time of your flight. This will minimize the risk of interference on aircraft radios during your journey.

Pilots and air traffic controllers will have so much peace and calm as they carry out their duty of ensuring you get to your destination safely when you do your part. Doing your part is pretty simple; keep airplane mode on until you land on the ground. While airplane mode is on, you can enjoy various other activities away from your phone during the flight. For instance:

  • You can get social with the person seated next to you and exchange valuable life nuggets.
  • You can play offline games with your phone.
  • You can stay alert to everything that is happening around you.
  • You can open your e-reader application and catch up on some reading.
  • You can listen to some music or watch a movie using your earphones or headsets.
  • Better still, you can take exciting photos while on air that will help you preserve some beautiful memories of the flight.

Pilots and air traffic controllers are not the only people who will appreciate having your phone on airplane mode the entire flight. Other phone users on the ground will thank you too. This is because by doing so, you will minimize the chances of fighting over network connections. They can therefore enjoy their phone connection with no interference.

For reasons beyond safety, that is, being considerate of other people, you will need to keep your phone on airplane mode during the entire flight.

Can You Turn Off Airplane Mode After Takeoff?

What Does Airplane Mode Do, and Is It Really Necessary?


Absolutely, no. It would be best if you kept your phone on airplane mode even after takeoff. This is because the potential risks posed by an active phone are more prevalent during the flight. The idea that you can keep your phone on airplane mode during takeoff then switch it back on during the flight is unacceptable.

As mentioned earlier, the benefits of having your phone on airplane mode during your flight are numerous. Why would you want to curtail these benefits by turning off airplane mode after takeoff? We would advise that you please do so as soon as the cabin crew announces that you turn on airplane mode.

You will then need to ensure that your phone remains in airplane mode during the entire flight. After you land safely, feel free to turn airplane mode off and enjoy all the great functions that come with owning a phone!

Can You Get into Trouble for Not Putting Your Phone on Airplane Mode?

Most people obey the rule to put their phones on airplane mode while others forget to or, in worse case scenarios, choose not to. Fortunately, the plane still lands safely. Ever wondered if there is a possibility that you could get into trouble for doing this?

For starters, you may be wondering whether flight attendants can tell when you haven't put your phone on airplane mode. For instance, they can't tell if the passenger sitting on seat 16A has their phone on. But if many people in the plane have their phones on, the interference encountered will serve as enough notification.

In such an instance, flight attendants will be honest enough and repeat the announcement for passengers to turn on airplane mode. When we sample the responses from various airlines, the consequences for this are a bit threatening. A representative from British Airways says that their airline takes this issue very seriously. Offenders risk being reported to the relevant authorities.

Another flight attendant says that failure to turn on airplane mode translates to disobedience of crew member instructions and disobedience of posted placards. This can be termed as a federal offense that can attract a specific penalty for the offender.

What Happens When Someone Texts You on Airplane Mode?

Messages cannot be delivered to you when your phone is on airplane mode. On the sender's device, the message will display no status at all. When you are back online, you will receive all the notifications you sent earlier while on airplane mode. The sender will also see a "delivered" status.

So what happens is, your carrier will hold the message in the network until you turn your phone back on. This way, you read and respond to your notes when you turn off airplane mode. Therefore, you don't need to worry about missing important messages when turning on airplane mode, especially when flying.


Switching on airplane mode for your device makes it okay for you to use it when flying. We have clearly illustrated why it is necessary for you to turn on airplane mode when boarding a flight. From giving the pilots and air traffic controllers an easy time as they do their work to allowing the people on the ground to enjoy an uninterrupted network coverage, complying with this rule is vital.

What's more, the idea that turning on airplane mode will help you prolong your battery life is also encouraging. Even though the interruptions caused by your phone's signals will not directly result in a plane crash, we urge you always to do your part and comply.

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