What happens if you don’t put your phone in airplane mode?

What happens if you don't put your phone in airplane mode?

It’s the last moments you’re getting ready for takeoff, when you notice your seatmate responding to it text messages on their mobile phones– which they obviously didn’t put in it Flight mode Until now. Cue mounting fear. Are they really breaking the rules? And most importantly: is this reckless person going to mess with the plane’s signals and kill us all?

It can be intimidating to see a passenger ignore a put-to-flight announcement, because air travel is all about guidelines and safety. But these days, when everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and many are expected to answer work emails at all times, it’s tempting to increase restrictions on Airplane mode. What actually happens if someone forgets (or worse, actively chooses not to) flip that little switch? The truth is, most travelers don’t really know. So, we asked airline employees what the basis for the safety step is, and whether they can actually tell when a passenger is violating the rules.

This article has been updated with new information since its original publication date.

Why is Airplane mode required?

You might remember a time when airlines told passengers to turn off their phones completely, not that long ago, but in 2012. In 2013 — after consulting with pilots, passengers, airline manufacturers, and representatives of mobile technology — the aviation department officially decree Passengers can keep their phones on during flights, as long as they are set to airplane mode.

“The industry has had many reports over the years linking mobile phone use to system malfunctions, and while systems have improved, industry regulators are taking a cautious view because of the safety implications,” said a spokesperson for an international airline’s Flight Tech team. in the current situation. “Mobile phone signals can interfere with aircraft navigation and landing guidance systems.”

The relationship between phone signals and navigation systems is not an exact science, which is why everyone we spoke to was careful with their language. says Bobby Lowry, PBS host Jet Set, A former flight attendant, W.J Condé Nast Traveler contributor. “The best way the pilot explained it to me is, if you leave your cell phone next to a speaker — right before it rings, you’ll hear a clicking sound from the speaker,” Laurie explains. “That’s kind of what they hear on their headphones and on-deck speaker system while they’re on call.” And when you’re traveling by plane, the last thing you want is any extra noise while you communicate and focus.

The industry says, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “In practice, there is no impact on the aircraft, but without a (safety) certificate, the use of the 3G / 4G band cannot be allowed,” says Matti Kiskinarchos, Vice President of Fleet Pilot at Finnair.

Do some countries allow passengers to use their phones without Airplane Mode?

Yes. Both the UK and the EU recently allowed airlines in their member states to begin providing 5G to passengers in the air, making airplane mode a thing of the past. UK and EU officials have been given a deadline of June 30, 2023, to make 5G frequency bands available to airlines.

The situation is very different from how 5G was rolled out in the US, which is It has already caused flight cancellations and delays. In the UK and EU, there is no concern that the 5G signal will interfere with equipment in the cockpit. “There is much less potential for interference,” said Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Aviation Safety Commission, he told the BBC In December 2022, when the plan to cancel Airplane Mode was first announced. “We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and there are lower power settings than those allowed in the US.”

With 5G in the air, travelers in the EU and UK can have full access to their mobile devices and no longer need to set their phones on airplane mode. This means that they can access previously turned on functions, such as making phone calls on the plane and accessing apps that stream music and videos. “The mobile public wants 5G,” Whittingham told the BBC. “Regulators will open up this possibility, but there will be steps that will be taken to ensure everything they do is safe.”

Will 5G End Airplane Status Requirements in the US?

Mostly not. In fact, it may be more important than ever to put your phone on airplane mode. For months, American officials and air travel experts have been grappling with how the new 5G mobile frequencies will affect aircraft equipment across the country. The problem is that the 5G signal can interfere with a certain device called an altimeter, which uses radio waves to give the pilot a readout about how high the plane is off the ground. It can be an important device, especially when landing in bad weather or poor visibility.

However, a solution was found, and airlines were advised to upgrade their radio altimeters to address potential interference issues with 5G C-Bands. As of the end of June 2023, about 80 percent of the aircraft have been upgraded with the new equipment, according to Reuters. But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned American travelers that they could face flight delays throughout the summer if airlines do not update their planes with the latest technology.

“We continue to see a significant number of aircraft waiting to be retrofitted, including many aircraft operated by foreign airlines,” Buttigieg wrote in a letter to American Airlines, a lobby group representing the nation’s largest airlines. This means that on days with bad weather and low visibility in particular, there can be an increase in delays and cancellations.

While upgrading the relevant equipment in the cockpit will help avoid the more serious safety issues with 5G, it also means that travelers in the US should expect to continue to switch their devices into airplane mode for the foreseeable future.

Can airline staff know you didn’t put your phone on airplane mode?

Well sort of. Flight attendants or pilots will not go Get a pointer that says 13 a Lowry says. “But if there are enough people who still have it, who are facing this interference, then yes.”

You may have been on a flight where airline staff are honest in receiving feedback and passengers are again warned to follow the rule. “I’ve been on a few flights where we’ve asked multiple times, saying the pilots were saying they were being interfered with,” Lowry says. But like I said, it’s very rare.

What happens if you are caught breaking the rule?

The official response from airlines can be very dangerous. “Technically, you’d be disobeying crew members’ instructions and that’s a federal offense,” Lowry says. Depending on the aircraft, since some have “no cell phone” signs and “no smoking” lights, “You disobey crew member instructions, disobey illuminated signs and post signs. You can actually be charged with two offenses.”

Of course, these results mostly refer to passengers who intentionally refuse to turn their phones into airplane mode. The most common are people who have forgotten, or who are maxed out and just want to send one last email before quitting.

and the Safety concerns Among the passengers, Laurie says, he made us all bodyguards, based on his experience as a flight attendant. “Everyone hides their phone and you’re walking by, but three rows later, you hear that incoming text message or that phone call,” he says. “And then it’s funny to watch the other passengers running over each other. Everyone is pointing or waving you down and (with their fingers) to their ear and mouth as if they’re on the phone, like, ‘This one.’”

Originally appeared in Condé Nast Traveler

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