Can You Use Your Phone On A Plane?

When a plane is up in the air the Federal Communications Commission prohibits the use of mobile phones in case any emitted radio signals could interfere with the aircraft’s systems.

But when you put your cell phone into airplane mode you disable cellular communications. This means that your device is no longer functioning as a cell phone and is really better described as a small tablet or a personal electronic device.

Using portable electronic devices on planes is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration but they leave it up to each airline to set their own rules about using a phone in flight mode on their planes.

What this means is that once your plane has taken off you cannot use your phone to make voice calls or to use cellular data.

But depending on the policy of the airline you are traveling with you might be able to use your cell phone in airplane mode.

Turning on flight mode disables cellular communications, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

But you can turn WiFi and/or Bluetooth back on if your airline allows it.

FAA Guidance On Using Cell Phones On Planes

Flying is such a safe way to travel, we can often become blase about the dangers.

On the rare occasions where planes make an emergency landing, it’s often vitally important to evacuate the aircraft as quickly as possible. There could be a fire.

Confused passengers often forget the safety instructions and try to gather their belongings before they leave the plane. Meanwhile the cabin could be filling with smoke.

These passengers took the time to gather their carry-on luggage after an emergency landing.

Passengers from the back of the plane died because they were unable to evacuate. Passengers from the front of the plane evacuated with their personal belongings.

This is why you don’t use your personal electronic devices during take-off and landing. You need to be ready to get out of the plane as fast as possible.

You should only use any electronic device when it’s safe to do so.

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Let’s see what each airline says about using cell phones on their planes.

Airlines Cell Phone Policies

Alaska Airlines

Electronic voice communications of any kind (i.e. cell, VoIP, Skype calls) are not allowed during flights. Mobile phone calls may only take place while the boarding door is open at the departure city, and while taxiing to the gate upon arrival. At all other times, phones must be turned off, or placed in airplane/game mode for use as a small personal electronic device.

Alaska Airlines

Allegiant Airlines

Portable radios, cell phones, and other such devices cannot be used during flight at any time. Even in ‘airplane’ mode, they may interfere with the navigation devices on the aircraft. If there are any questions about a certain device, please ask an in-flight crew member. Sorry, wifi is not available on Allegiant flights.

Allegiant FAQ

Allegiant don’t even let you use your cell phone in airplane mode.

American Airlines

You can use your cell phone, laptop and other electronic devices onboard until advised by the flight crew, but phone calls aren’t allowed during flight. Please keep these things in mind during taxi, takeoff and landing: Put small devices in airplane mode and either hold or place the device under your seat. Laptops, virtual reality headsets and other large items cannot be held and should be turned off and put away

American Airlines

JetBlue

Cellular calls will be permitted while the aircraft is on the ground. However, the FCC requires consumers to disable the cellular functionality of their devices before takeoff until the aircraft lands. Putting your device in “airplane mode” is an easy way to do this, but if you wish to use Bluetooth and other functions you may wish to disable the cellular capability manually. During the safety briefing, customers are encouraged to put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to crewmembers’ instructions, but turning off electronic devices is not required.

JetBlue

United

Although you are allowed to use your cell phone in airplane mode for activities such as surfing the internet and sending email, we do not allow the use of our onboard internet service for voice communication or videoconferencing through a cell phone, VoIP or any similar service. Voice and video calls are not permitted. By purchasing an internet plan and accessing our service on board, you agree not to make voice or video calls, including but not limited to VoIP, in flight.

Spirit Airlines

Devices must have their cellular network service disabled, commonly known as ‘Airplane Mode’, from the time the aircraft door is closed for departure from the gate until the aircraft is taxiing to the gate upon arrival. Cell phone use is still limited and calls cannot be made during times when cellular network is to be disabled.

Spirit

I couldn’t find cell phone policies for Delta, Frontier, or Southwest. I would expect that this means they permit phone use in flight mode.

If you are unsure about the rules for your airline then check with your flight attendant. They will let you know what is permissible.

The Verdict

You can’t use your phone to make phone calls when a plane is off the ground.

Usually this rule starts once the cabin door is closed and ends when you touch down.

Each airline sets its own rules about using phones in airplane mode. Most carriers allow you to turn Bluetooth on and to turn WiFi on if they have in-flight WiFi but you still can’t make voice calls using Whatsapp, Facetime, or other similar apps.

This is mainly so you don’t disturb other passengers.

You can use WiFi to chat but only using text messages via an app not SMS text messages.

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