Using (cellular) mobile phone during flight

52 replies

Chris C.

Member since 24 Apr 2012

Total posts 1,118

Several comments in this topic have been edited in line with AusBT's long-standing Comment Policy.

Mr Miyagi:

You have been reminded of this policy time and time again, including earlier this month when your commenting privileges were suspended. Only a week after that ban was lifted, you've ignored the policy again, and as a result, your account has now been blocked.

MarkJohnSon: You have also received multiple Comment Policy warnings recently, including a final warning, so a decision has been made to suspend your commenting privileges for the rest of the week. If you continue to ignore the Comment Policy after your ability to comment is restored, your account will be blocked also, as these reminders need not continue.

All users are reminded of the Comment Policy, which states: "Don't attack others for their opinion: if you disagree, then make your case. But stay objective and stick to the topic."


Member since 07 Oct 2012

Total posts 769

To the OP - not much can be done about it once the flight is over.

Personally, I just forever hope, that airlines never allow mobile calls to be made on a plane.


Member since 25 Jul 2011

Total posts 9

It is true that there is little to no danger of cellular connections interfering with aircraft communications in general, provided everything is in good working order. If there is an equipment failure or damage to an aircraft however, there is a possibility that radio interference could become dangerous.

The risk is very low, but the impact could be very high (a couple of hundred dead people)

There is a significant impact to the mobile network as well. They are designed to be ground to ground networks. Your device may be communicating with half a dozen cells at ground level, but at altitude, tens of cells could be impacted.

Enjoy being out of touch and use it as down time to relax.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 19 Jan 2018

Total posts 64

I have spoken with a couple of friends who are pilots (both commercial and GA) and the general view is that there is no significant safety risk posed by mobile phone use.

Many posters would be aware that some pilots, in fact, use iPads connected to cellular data whilst in the flight deck provided it is safe to do so. I have seen this first hand.

I believe that the time will come when the ban on mobile phone use will be lifted altogether. I do, however, agree that it would be undesirable in the extreme to have people (particularly those cramped into a Y class cabin) talking freely on the phone.

Last editedby Chris C. at Apr 23, 2018, 01:50 PM.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 15 Sep 2016

Total posts 43

There are lots of different reasons why airline carriers don't like mobile phones - some say safety, others say privacy, some due to interference with avionics, etc

Yes, its a fact GSM, 3-4g signals on some frequencies do cause staticfeedback on aircraft communications systems, yes some mobile operators frequencies do use the same as radar, telemetry, etc

However, if phones were really that unsafe, you would never be allowed to take it onboard to start with!

Its almost impossible to allow passengers to self regulate or adhere to the rules by themselves - take baggage, there are clear rules on in cabin bags, weight, size, etc - we all at times exceed don't we? don't take yourseat belt off until the Cap has turned off the seatbelt sign?!? of course people do

In terms of privacy and the close proximity to other passengers - well buses, trains, etc all allow phones? so why cant planes?

Its a commercial and technical argument that has slowed the adoption, if it were cheap and the technology allowed for seamless coverage at 35K feet, it would have been the norm years ago, we would be all used to it by now.....

great debate as usual AusBT....

Last editedby daniesut at Apr 23, 2018, 02:18 PM.

Chris C.

Member since 24 Apr 2012

Total posts 1,118


As with other users in this thread, you have also previously received multiple warnings for ignoring AusBT's Comment Policy, including a final warning for posting personal attacks and remarks about other users. We also posted a reminder to all users earlier in this thread reminding of that policy, which you have also disregarded.

Accordingly, your post above has been edited and a decision has been made to suspend your commenting privileges for the rest of the week. If you continue to ignore the Comment Policy after your ability to comment is restored, your account will be blocked as well, as these reminders need not continue.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 23 Oct 2013

Total posts 767

Back in the good old days (with older planes) it could have potentially caused a problem if many people were using low frequencies 700-900Mhz.

Nowadays all of the aircraft that operate our domestic jet services (737's, A320) and most of the new Dash 8/ATR's are not affected by the connection at all.

Some long-haul aircraft actually have mobile networks onboard and they operate a single high-frequency band (often 1800Mhz) along a "leaky cable loop" that's basically one long wire running along the roof of the plane. The idea is that devices will see this only see this network and ignore ones on the ground which is really what they want.

The reason they do this is due to the way ground cell towers are set up. In the city carriers use a high density of towers to provide coverage however in the country (which is where most flights fly over) they don't have as many towers. The towers and phone have the ability to detect each other and boost coverage in that direction which creates a lot of "radio pollution" that can impact users on the ground and will burn a lot of battery on your phone (but it won't do much harm to a plane).

Sure one person doing it won't be a problem but when you've got a fully loaded 737 going overhead with 180 phones switched on then it can actually start to cause havoc to towers on the ground not to even mention the cell handoff (switching between towers) that the network and your phone would be required to keep up with when traveling at 1000km/h.

Basically, it's less a safety issue anymore and more of a technically it'll cause people headaches. If you're interested in it some more then Mythbusters did a good episode (if you can find it on Foxtel or online somewhere) otherwise there are lot's of good YouTube videos online about this type of thing.


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 06 Aug 2017

Total posts 170

An interesting, knowledgeable and informative post from henrus, as usual. Thanks! I do recall watching that Mythbusters episode years ago ... but from memory they were only allowed to do the testing on the ground because of the regulations.



Member since 04 Apr 2014

Total posts 135

I was using my my iPad on a flight recently. We were at 30-something thousand feet, cruise mode in the middle of the US. Boing goes the iPad loudly - Skype call from my father in NZ.

Immediate thought, ‘since when did United allow streaming video service on inflight wifi’ but then I realized I wasn’t on WiFi. I’d just forgotten to switch it to airplane mode and I guess it’d picked up a ground based cell. Of course I didn’t take the call but here’s the thing: nobody else noticed or It seemed even cared.



Member since 21 Jul 2016

Total posts 25

There are three points mentioned by contributors worth empasising.

1. You are distinctly told to switch off phones and other transmitting devices so do it. What else would you be getting up to?
2. You may be making people uncomfortable on the flight becasue they do not know wjjhat the effect may be.
3. It could be a matter of quantity. I have heard pilots complain that a phone does interfere with their comms units with clicks. If everybody did it then there may be an issue.

I say as long as it is not obtrusive i.e. actually making a call, then let it be. I have had more instrusion form a passenger typing hard on their laptop all the way through a 3 hr flight. All that clicking?



Member since 21 Jul 2016

Total posts 25

By the way, people phoning on busses and trains can be an issue.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 27 Nov 2017

Total posts 4

As I was getting into my seat on an Air Canada flight SYD -YVR, my phone slipped out of my pocket and disappeared into a crevice between the seat cushion and the wall of the cabin. I hadn't had a chance to switch it to airplane mode and the flight was 14 hours long. Can you imagine my embarrassment, shame and anxiety?

...After take off a series of FAs tried to retrieve the phone using implements such as tweezers and serviettes to no avail. The plane flew off over the Pacific eventually arriving in YVR unscathed

...In the end, an engineer needed to come onboard to dismantle the seat and hand me the phone (which also landed unscathed)...I questioned him and told him I was mortified that the phone might have interfered with the aircraft....His response? 'Nah! I have to dismantle seats at least once an hour to retrieve phones not in airplane mode, eh'.

..I guess that goes to saying these contraptions don't cause problems - well, other than shaming pax

....BTW. The cabin crew on AC were terrific and dealt with my little problem sympathetically and expediently.They were great in all aspects of the flight.



Member since 19 Apr 2012

Total posts 725

The question is not do one person using it but 300 at the same time. That is the nub of the issue here.


Member since 23 Feb 2015

Total posts 266

Earlier tonight I flew SYD-MEL. Just after the cabin crew had finished their final walkthrough before landing, the passenger across the aisle from me got out his phone and started reading, and sending, SMS and emails. There was no internet on the flight so I can only assume he was using his cellular (phone) connection.

Was the passenger across the aisle actually on a data connection, though? It is possible to 'send' messages and emails while offline; they just sit in the outbox until the connection is reestablished.

I do this all the time, while in flight mode.

There is something satisfying about sending an email and knowing there won’t be an immediate reply :)


Member since 23 Feb 2015

Total posts 266

It’s sadly unsurprising to see so many posts where people are justifying ignoring instruction from crew because “they know better”.

If asked to do it, just do it.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Using (cellular) mobile phone during flight

Attach Files