Airlines could soon allow 5G phone calls during flights

‘Flight mode’ could become a thing of the past under new EU rules to promote 5G on planes.

By David Flynn, November 25 2022
Airlines could soon allow 5G phone calls during flights

What’s worse than some loud-mouth on their mobile phone yamming it up in the airport lounge? It could be having that same person sitting next to you on your flight and resuming that same conversation once the plane takes off.

Yes, the spectre of inflight phone calls is looming, and it’s got the backing of EU regulators.

The European Union this week announced it will enable the “wide-spread deployment of 5G services” on aircraft, using special ‘pico-cells’ installed on the plane to connect to satellites and then bounce those signals back down to Earth.

Certain frequencies in the 5G spectrum – potentially in the “millimetre-wave” bands, which have short range but can handle high capacity – will be designated for in-flight cell-phone connectivity.

The decision will allow airlines to let passengers make and receive phone calls, text messages and data just as they would on the ground, the European Commission said in a statement.

“5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies,” promises Thierry Breton, the EC’s commissioner for the internal market.

The US Federal Communications Commission in 2020 scuttled plans to allow in-flight voice and data services via mobile wireless frequencies, saying that there was strong opposition including from airline pilots and flight attendants on safety and national security grounds.

Phone calls can already be made on many flights but they’re prohibitively expensive, while voice services such as WhatsApp and Skype are blocked on inflight WiFi networks. 

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

05 May 2018

Total posts 1

"Let's make planes like trains and buses where people talk loudly on their phones"

Says nobody...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2015

Total posts 27

For someone who uses the train rather than drive in and out of the city in Sydney, I know that I am not the least bit interested in listening to people's conversations and the dramas going on in their lives. I, for one hope that this does not occur. Imagine being kept awake in the middle of the night on a flight and having to listen to someone's conversation 

09 May 2016

Total posts 18

Absolutely ridiculous. !!!!!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 84

My heart sank when I read this. I hope a combination of rules and etiquette prevents it from becoming a problem.

If calls are to be permitted, here's an idea: no voice calls while the cabin lights are dimmed?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 131

What an awful bloody idea. It's bad enough that the lounge is full of people yapping away at the top of their lungs or watching tv on their ipads with no headphones. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 123

This would be worse than Snakes on a Plane !!

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 59

Please NO !!

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 48

It can only create Plane Rage and then the airlines will ban don't approve it in the first place

30 Oct 2018

Total posts 1

Ridiculous - hard enough at home when wife is constantly speaking loudly on the phone!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2020

Total posts 7

Hi Guys,

Perfect timing for this bad news, does anyone know why, with flight mode on (showed the flight attendant), I was able to receive calls on my Qantas flight SYD-PER today (Nov 25)? Not Whatsapp / VOIP, direct dial calls.



You probably have enabled the setting to 'Allow WiFi calling', I think this lets voice calls be made over WiFi when there's a poor mobile network signal or even no signal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2020

Total posts 7

I do have WiFi calling enabled, so perhaps the dreaded inflight calls are closer than we think!! Thanks for that ABT, much obliged. Luke🙏

Weird never heard of this one before, normally with flight mode on, you should not be able to receive any cellular calls unless it's WhatsApp but not from a mobile carrier. What phone were you using. 

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 46

What a diabolically bad idea. Hopefully the flight attendants will strongly oppose it.

Can you imagine>

"Tea or cofee ?"


"Tea or cofee Sir/Madam?"

Passenger continues loud conversation and ignores flight attendant.

God help us all!

If this goes ahead, I'll now be choosing which airline to fly with based on those that DO NOT allow inflight phone calls.  Why does there seem to be a social imperative to remain "connected" at all times?  If it does come in, they should have a dedicated area screened from the rest of the aircraft where phone calls can be made - such as the extreme back seats in economy.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 14

I recall uopstairs on the ANA 747 s they was two offices at the rear near the stairs you could work inside and I am sure they had printers in them. On the high speed trains in Taiwan they have a cubicle that is designed for loud mouthed callers to use and not disturb other passengers.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 59

There are phone " booths " in the business lounge area in Narita airport, (can't speak for Haneda,) they have no phone in them, but if you wish to use your mobile, it is expected you will make use one of them. Using your mobile in the open area is not permitted.  Ditto on Japanese trains, if you're on one, and your phone rings, it is expected you will immediately leave your seat, walk quickly to the end of the carriage, and only commence talking once inside the vestibule area at the end, so you do not disturb other passengers.  Oh for such personal discipline here.   

Yes, agree Ian J.  Makes one nostalgic for the "olden days".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 462

This is the solution to a question that nobody's asking.  The airlines, flight attendants, and 99% of passengers do NOT want this. The other 1% are the loud-mouthed narcissists who try to impress everyone around them by big-noting themselves in the hope that everyone hears how important they (think they) are. 

Ultimately, it won't happen, because the airlines won't allow it, even if the airline regulators were to do so. But another great example of the ridiculous "make work" mission of the EU mob in Brussels. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 30

I hope ET will get and advise us of those Airlines permitting this diabolical idea. Then we can avoid supporting them.


23 Feb 2017

Total posts 15



Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 167

Imagining this (overnight flight) "I'M ON THE PLANE... WHAT?  YEAH IT'S AMAZING.... I DON'T KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS... BUT I'M WIDE AWAKE... WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?... YEAH HAVE YOU HEARD OF (blah blah blah)..."

Few things will incite air rage more than having solipsistic nobodies taking and receiving calls... only punctuated by someone getting a constant "DING" from each SMS received...  If there is demand, create a paid for space, toilet room sized, to go and chatter away, and pay for it, at the back of the cabin


20 Oct 2020

Total posts 12

Please no and never allow voice calls on flights

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 55

Bad enough when people are on calls as they board the plane and continue on. Don’t need this!

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