There are a few rules surrounding flying and what you can and can’t do on your phone when you’re on a plane, including texting.

Can You Text on a Plane?

Typically, you can either text using your cellular data or over Wi-Fi if your phone and service provider supports it.

On a plane, you can’t text using your cellular data, as your phone is required to be in airplane mode, which turns data off, except before takeoff and after landing.

But if your service provider and phone support texts over Wi-Fi, you will be able to text on a plane.

Why You Can’t Text Using Data

As just mentioned, your phone must be switched to airplane mode when flying, which turns off cellular data.

This is down to two reasons:

  • A concern over electromagnetic interference affecting the aircraft’s communication and navigation systems
  • Disruption to cell towers on the ground as your phone attempts to connect to every tower it passes

Can You Receive Texts?

Again, as long as you are connected to Wi-Fi, SMS messaging will work. So you can receive texts on a plane as long as your phone and service provider supports texts over Wi-Fi.

Can You Text on International Flights?

Interestingly, the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), allow passengers to use a mobile phone without it having to be in airplane mode when on a plane.

However, this only applies to airlines that are able to prove that their aircraft systems are not affected by phones not being in airplane mode.

From an airline’s point of view, this isn’t worth the time or expense of proving, especially as the vast majority of airlines don’t allow passengers to use data on a plane, and most passengers aren’t that concerned either, so there is no real competitive advantage.

So, in all likelihood, you won’t be able to text on international flights either.

Can You Use WhatsApp?

As WhatsApp works over both Wi-Fi and cellular data, as long as you can connect to Wi-Fi on your flight, you can send and receive messages over WhatsApp on a plane.

Related: How Does Wi-Fi Work on Planes?

Can You Make and Receive Calls?

If your phone and service provider support calls over Wi-Fi, you can make and receive calls on a plane.

However, most airlines prohibit passengers from making voice and video calls in-flight because it is annoying to other passengers.

Can You Make and Receive Video Calls?

Again, you can technically make and receive video calls on a plane over Wi-Fi, but most airlines will prohibit passengers from doing so due to the annoyance of other passengers.

What Happens if You Don’t Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode?

While there are concerns over your phone interfering with a plane’s aircraft and navigation systems, and disrupting cell towers on the ground, in all likelihood, nothing will happen if you don’t put your phone in airplane mode.

A few phones not switched to airplane mode won’t cause any interference.

It is only when enough passengers don’t have their phones on airplane mode that pilots might notice interference and remind passengers to turn it on.

Flight attendants and pilots are also not able to pinpoint anyone who has not put their phone int Airplane Mode.

Can You Use Bluetooth?

Generally, you can use Bluetooth on a plane during the flight, but it must remain switched off for taxi, takeoff and landing, though it can vary by airline.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).