It wasn’t that long ago that airlines asked people to turn off their devices completely during a flight, whereas today we’re often asked to put them in airplane mode.
Using mobile phones on board planes to make voice calls or send text messages has always been banned on UK airlines.
But many wonder what happens if you forget to turn your phone on airplane mode on a plane.
According to Civil Aviation Authority: “Scientific research has shown that cell phones can interfere with the normal operation of aircraft equipment and can also cause interference in pilots’ headsets.”
Meanwhile, Skyscanner travel expert Laura Lindsay said Condé Nast Traveler: “Although most mobile phones do not emit powerful radio waves, devices such as Kindles, iPods, laptops, and even handheld game consoles all also emit radio waves, especially in a compact space.”
Using mobile phones on board planes to make voice calls or send text messages has always been banned on UK airlines (stock image)
How does airplane mode work?
Tamara Vallois, communications manager at Wizz Air, explained that even if phones are out of range of cell towers, they will still send electrical signals when searching for that connection.
By activating flight mode, cellular signals are disabled, meaning there will be absolutely no interference on the aircraft.
Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, told the BBC This 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 automatic flight control systems,” he said.
“Experience has shown that the risk of interference is very low. The recommendation has always been that once you are airborne, devices should be in airplane mode.
Fears in the US that 5G use could interfere with flights are much less likely in the UK and EU, he said.
“We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and the power settings are lower than those allowed in the United States,” Mr. Whittingham added.
Is there any danger when a passenger forgets to put their phone in airplane mode?
Tamara explained that if a passenger forgot to turn their phone on in airplane mode, it would pose no danger.
She said the flight crew would likely be able to tell if everyone had forgotten to turn off their devices due to the level of interference, but the plane would not malfunction or fall out of the sky like some might believe so.
Will the rule be removed in the future?
As technology continues to advance, many hope that one day we will no longer need to turn our devices into airplane mode during a flight.
However, for many, not having internet access on a plane offers a respite of sorts, a time to completely disconnect and go into vacation mode.
It was recently announced that phone calls will be allowed on EU flights in 2023.
The European Commission has ruled that airlines can provide 5G technology on board planes, along with slower mobile data.
This could mean travelers will no longer be required to put their phones in airplane mode – although the details of how this will be implemented are unclear.
Passengers will be able to access the usual features of their phone, including streaming music, receiving emails and browsing social media, just as they would using their 5G mobile network on the ground.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European businesses.
“There are no limits to the possibilities offered by ultra-fast, high-capacity connectivity.”
The update will enable widespread use of 5G services, a technology that offers download speeds of 100 Mbps, according to the EE mobile network.
That means a 600MB movie could be downloaded in less than 37 seconds, the network added.
EU member states had until June 30 this year to make 5G frequency bands available.