News You Don’t Need to Use Airplane Mode on Airplanes

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Airplane mode hasn't been necessary for nearly 20 years, but the myth persists.

Putting your phone in airplane mode when boarding a flight feels like common sense. You wouldn’t be crazy for thinking your phone signal could interfere with an airplane’s navigation systems, potentially causing a disaster. However, the necessity of airplane mode is largely a myth, and there’s another reason airlines are asking you to turn your phone off.

Europe decided to allow phone calls and data usage on flights in 2022. They’re requiring all planes to install “pico-cells,” which is essentially a traffic controller that ensures phone signals don’t cross with a plane’s communication systems. Pico-cells are not new, however, they’ve been around for over two decades.

Even without a pico-cell, there’s limited evidence that your phone has ever interfered with a plane’s electrical systems. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a study in 2012 that found nearly zero conclusive instances of aircraft disturbances from cell phone usage. Most of the evidence on this seems to be anecdotal or severely outdated.

The real reason is this: airlines think people won’t stop yapping on their cell phones during flights, leading to more instances of “air rage.” That’s why regulators continue to ban phone calls and data usage on planes; it’s just plain annoying.

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