Very few people enjoy flying and just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible.

So, you might be wondering if you can use your phone on a plane to pass the time.

While you can use your phone on a plane, you are limited in what you can do, as for most of the flight, your phone is required to be in Airplane Mode.

This means that you will not be able to make calls or send SMS messages while flying.

Using Your Phone on Domestic Flights

In the USA, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) prohibit the use of mobile phones on planes while they are in the air.

However, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) allow the use of mobile phones on a plane as long as they “will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft.”

In other words, you can use your mobile phone on a plane only when it is in Airplane Made, as it will then not interfere with the plane’s onboard electronic systems.

This is because all airlines follow FAA guidelines, as they are the aviation authority in the USA.

Using Your Phone on International Flights

Different countries have their own aviation authorities with different rules when it comes to using your phone when you fly.

The EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), for example, allow passengers to use a mobile phone without the need to be in Airplane Mode.

However, an airline has to prove that aircraft systems are not affected in any way by a mobile phone not being in Airplane Mode (flight mode).

So, whether you can use your phone in airplane mode during the entire duration of the flight will vary on an airline to airline basis in European Union countries.

It’s therefore best to check with the airline, though you can expect most airlines to still not allow you to use your mobile phone when in Airplane Mode for the entire duration of your flight.

Using Your Phone Before Takeoff and Landing

You are able to use your mobile phone in all its functionality before takeoff and landing.

You may have noticed that whenever you fly, there is an announcement that informs passengers to turn on Airplane Mode on their phones while the plane is still on the ground before takeoff.

Once a plane has landed, there is usually another announcement that you can turn off Airplane Mode and use the full functionality of your phone.

2 Reasons You Can’t Use a Phone on a Plane

To Prevent Disruption to Cell Towers on the Ground

The reason the FCC give for why you can’t use your phone on a plane is to prevent disruption to cellular towers on the ground

Electromagnetic Interference

Mobile phones when not in Airplane Mode may interfere with an aircraft’s communication and navigation systems through electromagnetic interference.

This would put the safety of passengers and the cabin crew at risk.

How to Access the Internet When on a Plane

Fortunately, you can still access the internet when on a plane through the use of Wi-Fi.

Some airlines offer Wi-Fi for free while others require you to pay for it, though some do not have Wi-Fi availability at all.

Typically, once your phone is in Airplane Mode, you will either have to scan a QR code with your phone or can directly connect to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi signal.

You will then be redirected to a browser and the webpage will have directions you must follow to successfully connect.

This means that you can browse the internet, check emails, listen to Spotify, and stream video services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO during the flight.

Related: How Does Wi-Fi Work on Planes?

It Might Be Dangerous to Use Your Phone on a Plane

It is unclear if it is dangerous to use your phone on a plane.

There are good reasons for and against the use of mobile phones on a plane.

Some argue, including Tekla S. Perry and Linda Geppert, who are safety researchers, that even though the airplanes used by commercial airliners have shielded electronic systems, these degrade with increasing age, cycles of use, and even some maintenance procedures.

Other argues that there is a lack of definite evidence of mobile phones causing significant interference.

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

If you don’t put your phone in Airplane Mode when on a plane, your phone will attempt to connect to every cell tower on the ground that the plane passes.

Not only is there a possibility that this will cause interference with an airplane’s navigation and communication systems, but it will drain your battery more quickly.

Flight Attendants and Pilots Can’t Tell If Your Phone isn’t in Airplane Mode

Flight attendants and pilots will not be able to pinpoint any passenger who has not put their phone into Airplane Mode.

If enough passengers still have their phones on Airplane Mode, pilots will notice interference and will remind passengers to switch Airplane Mode on.

Can You Use Your Phone to Listen to Music on a Plane?

You can use your phone to listen to music on a plane throughout the entire duration of a flight, including during takeoff and landing.

If you use Spotify, you can use Spotify Premium in either Airplane Mode or when connected to Wi-Fi, and Spotify Free over Wi-Fi.

Can You Text When on a Plane?

As SMS messaging requires cellular data, you are unable to text when on a plane except before takeoff and after landing because you can’t use data on a plane.

However, if your service provider and phone support texts over Wi-Fi, you may be able to send texts when on a plane.

Can You Use WhatsApp When on a Plane?

As WhatsApp can be used when you are connected to Wi-Fi, you can send messages through the app during any stage of the flight, including during takeoff and landing.

If you are not connected to Wi-Fi, you will not be able to use WhatsApp when the plane is in the air.

Avoid Making Phone Calls or Taking Video Calls

While it’s possible to make and take a phone or video call through Wi-Fi, most airlines will not allow you to.

Additionally, you will have no privacy, there could be noise interruptions, the Wi-Fi signal may drop, and many passengers would find it annoying.

You Can Use Bluetooth on a Plane

Generally, you can use Bluetooth on a plane during the flight, but it must remain switched off for taxi, take-off and landing.

This includes Bluetooth devices such as Bluetooth headphones, phones, keyboards, and mice.

You May Be Able to Use Your Mobile Phone in the Future

In the USA, a few airlines have announced plans to install new technology on their aircraft that will allow passengers to use their mobile phone on a plane.

The plan is to install a device known as a picocell that would operate on separate frequencies, so not to interfere with either the cellular system or the aircraft’s avionics.

Related: Be Careful When Using Charging Ports At the Airport

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).