The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not prohibit you from using mobile data while flying. However, they do require passengers to turn airplane mode on during the flight, which means your mobile data will automatically be switched off. Therefore, you won’t have the option of accessing the internet without being connected to the aircraft’s WiFi.
This article will explain why you can’t use your mobile data during a flight and what you can do to keep yourself entertained without it.
Cellular Internet Data Doesn’t Work When You’re High up in the Sky
When the plane is 20-40 thousand feet or more in the sky, it is nearly impossible to catch a stable signal because you are far from any cellular tower and traveling at a super fast speed. So even if you manage to catch a signal (which is very unlikely), it will be gone within a few seconds.
Cell towers are designed to work on the ground, not in the sky – they’re mostly only stationed around metropolitan areas. They’re built high up from the ground with the intention of pointing the signal back to the ground, not the sky. If you can’t get a signal in the countryside, you most surely won’t get it when you’re high up in the sky.
Calling or Texting Someone Also Won’t Work
Texting or calling on an airplane is not an option unless you use the in-flight WIFI connection of the plane. This is because your phone won’t be able to catch any cellular signal when you are up in the sky. You might be able to make phone calls or send messages in the first and last 10 minutes of your flight, but it usually isn’t allowed during the critical stages of the flight. Therefore, it is always advised to refrain from using your phone outside airplane mode until you exit the airplane.
Some Airlines Now Offer Paid WiFi Networks, Which You Can Use During the Flight
Emirates Airways, Turkish Airlines, and other commercial airlines started offering WiFi services to their passengers, but it can be costly. The downside of this service is that you might have to pay high fees for WiFi even if you are flying in business class or first class. This service usually costs 7-10$ per hour or 20-30$ when purchased for 24 hours. Of all the major airlines, at the current moment, only JetBlue offers free inflight WiFi.
Plus, a lot of airlines also limit data usage of their WiFi networks due to limited satellite bandwidth. This means that data-intensive tasks, like downloading large files or streaming usually won’t work (at least not in acceptable quality) unless you’re doing it directly through their inflight entertainment systems.
Even if You Don’t Pay For WiFi, You Can Use the In-Flight Entertainment Apps on Your Devices
Some airlines now offer inflight entertainment apps in addition to their built-in entertainment systems, so you can watch movies and listen to music straight from your phone. For example, American Airlines has a free inflight entertainment app, which you can install on your device and after their airplanes are above 10 000 feet, it will start working. It allows you to watch movies and shows from Disney+, listen to Apple Music, and watch a variety of other shows from the AA library. By using this app, you don’t need to buy WiFi separately.
You’re Allowed to Use Your Phone on a Plane, but Only in Airplane Mode
As long as you put your phone on airplane mode, you’ll be able to use your phone as much as you want. Even if your flight does not offer WiFi, you can still use your phone to watch movies, do work, or play games. Popular movie streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO max allows users to download their movies and shows to watch them offline.
Airlines ask you to do this because devices that aren’t switched to airplane mode can interfere with their systems and cause disturbance to the flight. Even though recently FAA started allowing the use of devices during the critical stages of the flight, they still aren’t allowing you to use your devices outside of airplane mode because currently, the FCC regulations prohibit airborne calls. So essentially, you’re required to turn on airplane mode because of flight regulatory regulations.
What Will Happen if You Don’t Switch on Airplane Mode?
If you are a rebellious passenger and you refuse to turn on your airplane mode, you are unlikely to cause a major malfunction, but the phone signals may interfere with the airplane’s navigation and radio signals, therefore causing a lot of inconveniences for the pilots. When driving in a car, you wouldn’t want to needlessly cause inconveniences to the person at the steering wheel. This is basically the same thing, so if you use your devices, always set them to airplane mode during the flight.
Will Bluetooth Work When Your Phone Is in Airplane Mode?
This depends on the phone you are using. If your phone is a recent model, your Bluetooth will not go off once you turn on airplane mode. This means that you can use your Bluetooth earphones to listen to music, audiobooks, or watch a movie.
To test this before your flight, simply turn on Bluetooth on your phone, then Airplane Mode, and see if Bluetooth is still turned on.
Tip: If you want to invest in top-quality, smart Bluetooth earphones, the Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones is a solid choice. These earphones come with a noise cancellation feature and also give you the option of plugging them into the airplane’s entertainment system thanks to the two-pin adapter that comes with it.
Tips on How to Stay Entertained on a Plane Without Mobile Data
Play games on your phone: Most games on IOS and android phones have games you can play offline. just remember to download them before the flight.
Watch a movie: As mentioned earlier, you can watch a movie offline in your favorite streaming apps if you download it in advance using WIFI or mobile data.
Read a book on kindle or a hardcover book: You can pass the time by reading your favorite books, magazines, or news during your flight.
Socialize with your family or friends: Time flies fast if you travel with family or friends. You can enjoy each other’s company throughout the flight. Just make sure you’re not too loud not to irritate the other passengers on the plane.
Take a nap if you have a long flight ahead of you: Remember to bring a travel pillow and a sleep mask if you have a long flight and don’t want to be tired when you land. You can play slow music or soothing tunes to help you fall asleep. The Cloudz Neck Pillow with Sleep Mask is a must-have travel pillow and sleep mask set if you want to have a comfortable good night’s sleep during your flight. It also comes with noise cancelling earmuffs for you to take a break from your surrounding and get some much-needed rest.
In conclusion, airlines will not allow you to keep your mobile data on. Logically speaking, your phone won’t be able to catch a stable signal considering the plane’s speed and the height above the cellular towers. It will only drain your battery for nothing, and you might be subjected to ridiculously high roaming charges on your SIM card. Spare yourself and do any important emails and phone calls once you land, or pay for in-flight WiFi.