Airplane mode is a mode most modern cell phones can go into in order to cut all communications and radio signals propagated by the phone. Because it is illegal to use cell phones during a flight and because of the enhanced functionality that Android phones have – it is a way of getting around this restriction. The idea behind airplane mode is that many people wish to continue using their cell phones on planes to do things like listen to music and check appointments, but the use of cell phones on planes is banned due to the fact that their signals could cause interference. Airplane mode allows cell phone users to circumvent the ban, ensuring that their phones are safe to use on aircraft while the plane is in flight; electronic devices must be turned off for takeoff and landing.
There are two main reasons why people are not allowed to use cell phones on aircraft, although the rules against cell phone usage may change at some point. The first reason is that the radio signals emitted by phones could interfere with the communications and guidance systems on the aircraft, which could potentially be very dangerous. In addition, cell phone networks on the ground cannot cope with cell phones being used on planes, because planes travel very fast and at high altitude, so a phone on a plane could confuse a network on the ground. The jury is still out on whether or not it is a valid ban.
Most Android phones have the option to change the mode between airplane mode and regular mode in a fairly pronounced place. If a phone offers an airplane mode setting, the user’s manual usually clearly shows how to turn airplane mode off and on, and typically it can also be found through the phone’s menu. When airplane mode is activated, a small icon often shows up on the screen of the phone to indicate this. In some cases, the user may have to use a password to activate and turn off airplane mode, to ensure that it is not accidentally switched on and off.
Although airplane mode technically makes a phone legal to use on an aircraft, some airlines request that passengers turn their cell phones off anyway, or a flight attendant who is not familiar with the technology may ask you to turn your phone off. Sometimes, explaining that you are using airplane mode is sufficient, and the flight attendant will allow you to leave your phone on, but in other cases, you may be asked to turn it off. Although this may seem unreasonable, it is better to comply; in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, airlines are entitled to remove passengers from flights if they fail to comply with requests the airline terms ‘reasonable.’
So keep this in mind when using your phone in airline mode – you can be fined up to $10,000 if you refuse to turn off your phone if you are requested too. You might also get kicked off the plane!