What Happens If You Don’t Turn on Airplane Mode?

If passengers don’t put their cell phones on airplane mode, your pilot may experience distortion in the signals he gets via his navigation system.

The plane may not crash, but many in-flight calls and phone radio emissions can risk precise navigation.

The very first announcement by the flight attendants after your board is to switch your portable electronic devices to flight mode. 

But still, every frequent flyer has wondered, what happens if I don’t turn on flight mode?

In this article, we will be looking at the reasons and explanation of what will happen if you don’t put your phone on airplane mode.

Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic interference can happen if you don’t put your phone on airplane mode.

Since cellular phones and some other devices have a GSM/3G Radio installed to catch signals from ground towers, their radiofrequency can interact with any other electromagnetic device in its range. 

Have you ever heard the distorted, unpleasant noise when a mobile phone rings close to an audio system? It is the result of the interaction of two devices using electromagnetism.

And this occurrence includes the pilot’s radio and the electromagnetic signals that a pilot uses for aircraft navigation and landing guidelines from air traffic controllers. Due to the interaction of the electromagnetic waves with the phone’s radio emissions, the pilot or the aircraft crew will hear distortion and unpleasant noise.

Such noise can be a problem when it’s a matter of safety for so many people on board. 

Will the Plane Crash If You Don’t Put Your Cell Phone in Airplane Mode?

You may argue that when the flight attendant tells everyone to switch their phones to flight mode, not everyone does. Right? So, will the plane crash when the passengers don’t put their phone in airplane mode?

Researchers don’t really know. 

An aircraft crash or flight emergency because someone didn’t switch their phone to airplane mode has not been reported yet. But aviation experts do tell us that it is completely possible. 

And the utmost security is the reason why the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ban on cell phone calls originally appeared way back in 1991, especially during safety-critical take-off and landing times.

The plane uses GPS signals for navigation and landing guidelines from air traffic controllers. And it comes from a satellite in space and solar cells that power the signals received on the pilot’s end. 

With so many different manufacturers, radio signal sources, tablets, mobile phones, and varied cell phone tower distribution down on Earth, figuring out what exactly caused a malfunction is quite a task. 

However, evidence suggests that cell phone interference can lead to a disaster. 

What about the Wi-Fi on the Plane?

Major airlines nowadays offer in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile phone service. You can call it ‘acellular’ since it does not use radio waves for signal transmission to your phone. 

It’s a very low-power Wi-Fi signal that is satellite-based, hence reducing radio pollution and any possible interference from phones.

How Do I Text Or Make Calls on a Flight If I Have To?

Some British airlines are offering inflight cellular service to their customers. 

It’s technically a tiny cell station installed inside the plane. Thus, your phone can skip the tower hopping and instead use aircraft connectivity to make calls to the ground.

But guess what? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not allowed in-house phone service yet. 

Some of their primary concerns are that the inflight cellular service can be a feature of benefit for terrorists. Besides, when many passengers are making phone calls, they may not be interested in essential safety instructions, which can tick off more than a few pilots.

Can I Make a Quick Call and Then Turn Flight Mode Back On?

If you insist on keeping your cellular devices on and active while flying, there’s bad news. Your device may not work because the cell towers are all the way down on the ground. 

Cell radio works by communicating with the cell towers that cover a specified area or location at a time. 

So, let’s assume you make a call while your airplane is moving. What happens is the radio signal from your cellular device will be pinging cell towers one after the other, all over the place.

No cell tower will be able to catch your cell phone signal, process it, and hand it over to the next structure in the network. In the process, all you’re going to do is deplete your phone’s battery since it will be running at maximum power trying to find a signal.  


No research tells us that the airplane will crash straight away if you don’t put your phone on airplane mode when flying. But aviation experts do tell us that it is entirely possible. 

So, just do yourself and your flight crew a favor, and switch your phone to airplane mode for the entire flight. And go ahead and put flight mode on all your devices while you’re at it.