What does airplane mode actually do?
Ever since the advent of mobile phones, it’s been common knowledge that you need to activate airplane mode when flying somewhere on a plane – it’s in the name. The setting disables the phone’s ability to connect to your network and to the internet. But what would happen if you forgot?
“Please turn off all personal electronic devices…”
Whenever you’re on a flight, a member of the cabin crew will remind you to turn off all personal electrical equipment. And we do - but why?
The main reason being that your phone signal could distract the pilot and air traffic controllers on the ground. If you’ve ever heard the annoying noise a phone makes when it’s called near a radio, that’s what we’re talking about. But it happens in the pilot’s ear.
As you’re travelling so fast on commercial airlines, sometimes up to 600mph, your phone would constantly be hopping from mobile tower to tower, in search of enough reception to make a receive texts and calls if you were to leave it on. And if lots of passengers were doing this, it would cause a lot of noise for the people in charge of getting you from Luton to Spain.
Is this likely to change in future?
Some airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Emirates, and Aer Lingus offer in-flight Wi-Fi services now, running on a much lower power, as not to disturb the pilot. On these flights you've got the green light to use the internet, and with so many ways to comminicate these days, you'll easily be able to keep up to date with family and friends on the ground. And this is only going to boost in availibility over time.