Flying can be boring, especially when all you want to do is just get to your destination as soon as possible, so you might be wondering if you can pass the time by using the data on your phone.

You can’t use data on a plane. You are required to turn on airplane mode for every flight you take.

But why is this?

Do the rules change when flying internationally?

Can you still use Wi-Fi on a plane?

Let’s find out.

Can You Use Data on a Plane?


In some instances, you won’t be able to text on a plane, as SMS messaging works through cellular data.

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

Voice Calls and Video Calls

Most people use their data to make and receive voice and video calls, though you can also use Wi-Fi instead.

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


As WhatsApp works through both cellular data and Wi-Fi, you will be able to send and receive WhatsApp messages on your next flight if you are connected to Wi-Fi.

You Might But Won’t Probably Won’t Be Able to Use Your Data on International Flights

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

However, this is only if an airline is able to prove that aircraft systems are not affected in any way by a mobile phone not being in airplane mode (flight mode), which costs time and money and simply isn’t worth it from an airline’s point of view.

So, in all likelihood, you won’t be able to use your phone in non-airplane mode when flying with a European airline.

You Can’t Use Data on a Plane For Safety and Non-Safety Reasons

You are unable to use data on a plane and your phone should be in airplane mode because it can cause electromagnetic interference and disrupt cell towers on the ground.

If you don’t put your phone in airplane mode, it will attempt to connect to every cell tower on the ground that the plane passes, which can confuse networks.

It’s also possible that your phone can interfere with an aircraft’s communication and navigation systems through electromagnetic interference.

In any case, when you are flying at high altitudes – i.e. anytime after takeoff and landing – or over the ocean, it’s not possible to get service.

You Can Actually Use Data (Just Not Mid-Flight)

It’s possible to use data on a plane, though only before the plane has taken off and after landing.

At any other stage of the flight, your phone’s data must be switched off and your phone should be placed in airplane mode.

If You Don’t Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode, Nothing Bad Will Happen

If you don’t put your phone in airplane mode, it’s unlikely that anything is going to happen to you or the plane.

A single phone that isn’t in Airplane Mode is unlikely to cause any interference or alert flight attendants and pilots.

Only when enough passengers don’t have their phones on airplane mode will pilots notice interference and remind passengers to turn airplane mode on.

You Might Be Able to Use Wi-Fi Instead

You can use Wi-Fi on a plane to make texts, use WhatsApp, listen to Spotify, watch Netflix, and browse the internet.

But not all airlines offer Wi-Fi, and if they do, many airlines require you to pay to connect.

You Can Also Use Bluetooth on a Plane

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

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

However, airlines may have their own rules about when you can and can’t use Bluetooth during a flight.

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).