The rules on what you can and can’t do when flying can be confusing, especially when it comes to using your phone.

So in this article, we definitively answer if you are required to put your phone in airplane mode while flying and the reasons behind the decision.

Do You Have to Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode While Flying?

Domestic Flights

In the U.S., the FAA state that mobile phones are allowed to be used on planes as long as they “will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft.”

What this means is that you have to put your phone on airplane mode while flying domestically within the U.S.

International Flights

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

The caveat is that this is only the case 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.

As this costs both time and money, it isn’t worth it for most airlines, especially as requiring passengers to put their phone on airplane mode is the standard in the industry.

Before Takeoff and Landing

You do not need to put your phone on airplane mode when the plane is on the ground and once it has landed.

However, if the plane is taxiing or descending to land, your phone should be set to airplane mode.

Why You Need to Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode

1. To Prevent Electromagnetic Interference

You are required to put your phone in airplane mode while flying because there is a possibility that your phone will interfere with an aircraft’s communication and navigation systems through electromagnetic interference.

While planes actually have shielded electronic systems to protect against electromagnetic interference, these degrade over time, through cycles of use, and with maintenance procedures.

However, some argue that there is no definitive evidence that phones cause electromagnetic interference, so there should be no need for passengers to switch their phone to airplane mode.

When it comes to flying, though, it’s better to be safer than sorry.

2. To Prevent Disruption to Cell Towers on the Ground

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

Given the speed that a plane travels, and the number of cell towers and channels on the ground, your phone will confuse networks as it tries to connect to each one it passes.

Is It Dangerous If You Don’t Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode?

As just mentioned, if your phone isn’t put on airplane mode, it may cause electromagnetic interference.

However, if you and a few other passengers don’t put your phone in airplane mode, it’s unlikely that anything bad is going to happen.

A phone or two is unlikely to cause any interference.

If many passengers don’t set their phone to airplane mode, the pilots may only then notice interference and remind passengers to switch to airplane mode on.

What Airplane Mode Does

Once airplane mode is turned on, you will be unable to connect to the internet, and send or receive calls or text messages.

However, many airlines offer Wi-Fi, especially during long-haul flights, so can still surf the net, use WhatsApp, Spotify, and even text if your service provider and phone support texts over Wi-Fi.

You Can Still Use Bluetooth

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

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

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).