You’re sitting on a plane and you’re requested by airline staff to use the ‘flight’ mode on your phone – about the only time we get to use the feature for the reason for which it was named. Instead, we have to rely on the plane’s WiFi for our connection needs (we recommend testing WiFi speed and security after joining for the safest experience). However, why are we relying on this mode in the first place?
As soon as the magical button is tapped, cellular capabilities are disabled…but why? Is it a force of habit from the airline or is there a legitimate reason for having to activate flight mode? We’re going to answer these questions today!
What Does Flight Mode Do?
To answer this question, we first need to learn what this setting does. By shutting off cellular capabilities, it means phone calls and messages are both impossible because the device has stopped communicating with the nearest cell tower. With this in mind, all your internet-reliant apps, emails, and the browser itself will also be unavailable. You’ll notice a small airplane icon next to your battery icon, and you’ll be left with only offline apps and basic features.
Why is Flight Mode Important?
If all mobile devices were left operating, hundreds of devices would seek cell towers below and expand their signal to achieve this. In addition to draining your battery, this also has the potential to affect the sensors of the airplane. Suddenly, the pilot’s radio would be fighting your device for connection and it risks problems with other instruments too. When you’re at 30,000 feet, it’s best to give the pilots all the tools they require to get us safely to our destination.
In truth, leaving your phone to operate normally would be quite useless anyway. While sitting in the living room or office, the radio waves leaving your device can find a network tower easily. After finding one close to your location, you’ll be connected without too much effort and you can answer all those important work emails.
When in the air, you’re travelling at around 500/600mph (while thousands of feet in the air) and your phone is trying to work out which network tower it should connect to with so many available. Soon enough, this can cause confusion for both your device and the network towers. As your phone emits a stronger radiation to resolve the problem, the risk of interfering with the airplane’s communication systems increases.
While we are only talking about ‘risks’ here rather than certainties, we think it’s best to simply tap the flight mode button and ensure nothing will affect the safety of the journey. Isn’t it great to get some time away from the pressures of life and just enjoy the fact that you’re thousands of feet in the air anyway?
If you aren’t keen on this romantic conclusion, you’ll still have the airplane’s WiFi for all your connection needs until you land!