Can You Text on a Plane?

Yes, you can text on a plane, but only if you send the message over Wi-Fi via an instant messaging app.

These messaging apps can include WhatsApp, Instagram, iMessage, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger.

Why Can’t I Send SMS Texts Over Data?

You can’t send text via SMS (Short Message Service) because it requires a cell connection which is unavailable when your cell phone is in airplane mode. Turning off cellular connections for mobile devices is a legal requirement during flights. 

But you can use a Wi-Fi connection if you fly on an airline that has this service like Delta Air Lines. However, there may be an added cost for using the in-flight Wi-Fi network.

Why Can’t I Use Cell Connection on a Flight? 

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) banned cellular connection for cell phones onboard domestic flights. They decided to implement this ban because cell phone calls and text messages can interfere with the signal between the aircraft and airline towers, particularly when the plane is low to the ground (~10,000 feet). 

Meanwhile, when the aircraft is at its long-term flight altitude (~35,000 feet), the use of cellular connections by mobile devices could interfere with the plane’s radio signals and other aircraft systems. 

So, no cellular connection means passengers can not send a text message or use their cellular network for voice calls. However, you can get internet access on Wi-Fi-enabled flights even after enabling airplane mode. 

Is There a Fine for Using Cell Connection on a Flight?

If you use a cell connection on your cell phone while the aircraft is in the air, you can get a service suspension or a fine. Whether or not you have permission to use a cellular connection while in a grounded aircraft is at the ongoing discretion of the FAA. 

Is There a Ban on the Use of Cell Data on Grounded Flights?

At the time of writing, there is not an FAA ban on cellular connection use when the aircraft is on the ground. But, the FAA can change the ruling at any time. 

What Happens if Someone Texts Me While My Phone is in Airplane Mode?

As long as your device is in airplane mode, you will not receive any messages sent by SMS. You will not get these messages until your connection returns when you leave the plane. 

If you need to send text messages to someone, though, you can use the airplane’s Wi-Fi. This usually free internet access allows you to text over Wi-Fi-connected messaging apps. 

What Could Happen if I Leave My Cellular Data On During a Flight, But Don’t Use My Phone? 

If you leave your phone off airplane mode during your flight, it can still interfere with the navigation and communication systems of the aircraft, even if you’re not sending text messages. This interference can distract the pilots or garble important messages. 

Can I Make Or Receive Phone Calls on a Plane?

Some airlines offer their own in-flight cellular service for free or for an additional fee. This service comes from a physical aircraft-based station which allows communication with ground towers at a lower frequency. 

The airlines introduced this service mainly because business travelers complained that they had to have access to cell service during their flights. 

Could an Airplane Crash from Cellular Phone Usage?

No, cellular phone usage will not cause an airplane to crash. Cellular connections do not affect the aircraft’s engines, fuel, or power, just the communication and navigation systems. 

And, if communication or navigation systems went down, a plane could still fly. It would just be more difficult for the pilots, which can result in an accident. 

Can I Use Bluetooth on a Plane?

Yes, you can enable Bluetooth again after the plane has taken off to use wireless headphones. 

Conclusion 

Although you can’t use cellular data on a plane, you can access Wi-Fi signals on your electronic devices to engage in free texting through a text messaging app. This Wi-Fi service will allow you to stay connected to others on the ground even for the few hours you are in the air.

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