What Happens If You Don’t Turn On Airplane Mode?

Where would we be without our smartphones? We’ve all grown accustomed to being able to contact anyone, anywhere, anytime. But the question is, what about on an airplane?

You’re still going to want to use your phone, even if it’s just to ask Google some random question that just popped into your head.

What Happens If You Don't Turn On Airplane Mode

Well, it turns out that if you don’t turn on the airplane mode on your cell phone or cellular-enabled tablet, there can be unwanted consequences – but these may not necessarily be what you might expect. 

In this article, we’re going to spell out in simple terms what these consequences are, telling you everything you need to know, and answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way.

We will cover the pros and cons of leaving your cell phone in normal mode, and finally wrap up with a conclusion at the end. Please read on to learn more.

What Is Airplane Mode On A Cell Phone Or Cellular-Enabled Tablet?

Let’s kick things off with a few basics. In order to understand about using airplane mode and normal mode, you first have to understand just what the difference is between the two.

When your cell phone is in normal mode, you can do all sorts of things. You can call someone, text someone, connect with Bluetooth enabled gadgets, and even access the internet.

But, when your cell phone is in airplane or flight mode, the cellular signal, internet access, Bluetooth connections, and even the radio are all disabled. Your phone will be prevented from making any and all wireless transmissions. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use your smartphone.

In airplane mode, you will still be able to check the time and your cell phone battery, and access apps such as calendars, and calculators, as well as accessing files stored on your cell phone such as written documents or music files.

So, as you can see, turning on airplane mode is not like turning it off, and you can still get quite a lot of functionality with it on, though obviously you cannot use the whole gamut of what it can do. 

What Are The Main Consequences Of Not Turning On Airplane Mode During A Flight?

There are 3 main consequences of keeping your cell phone on its normal mode rather than airplane mode while in flight. They are as follows.

Flight Safety

I am pleased to report that the main issue with not turning on airplane mode on your cell phone during a flight isn’t actually flight safety…

The modern day avionic equipment designed to enable the pilot to fly the plane as intended is well shielded from signal interference.

Cell Service Disruption

However, it’s important to note at this point that if you were to leave your cell phone in normal mode during your flight, then it will attempt to make connections with every single cell tower on the ground that the airplane passes. 

And what this means is that you’d be disrupting cell service on the ground as the plane flies over these cell towers.

Draining Of Your Cell Phone Battery

But that’s not the only issue to be concerned about. As your cell phone struggles to connect with all these different cell towers, this is going to put a huge drain on your cell phone’s battery.

This draining would be much greater and quicker than if you were on the ground. And, even if you’re on a relatively short flight, you might still find that your cell phone battery will be dead by the time you get to your destination.

This could be incredibly problematic for you if you intended to call your ride to pick you up once landed, or access Google Maps to find your way somewhere on arrival.

What Happens If You Don't Turn On Airplane Mode (1)

Pros And Cons Of Leaving Your Cell Phone In Normal Mode During A Flight

By this point, you probably already have some idea about what the pros and cons of leaving your phone on might be during a flight. But for the sake of thoroughness, we will run through them here.


  • You will be able to contact your ride at the airport to let them know if there’s a delay
  • You may still be able to get work messages (some might consider this a con)
  • You can stream movies to watch or music to listen to as you fly
  • You can access the internet!


  • Although the plane’s avionic equipment may be well shielded from one or two cell phone signals, if everyone on the plane had their phones in normal mode, this could become problematic and disrupt the plane’s GPS signal with their interference.
  • You could cause issues for cell networks if you disrupt the signals from cell towers.
  • You could significantly drain your cell phone’s battery, and more so than you would normally. So if you’re going to need to use your cell phone when you land, then you might find that you won’t be able to.
  • Using your cell phone to make or answer calls, or stream movies or music could disturb other passengers on the plane if you fail to use some form of earphones. This may be particularly irritating for passengers during the night if they are trying to get some sleep.

Wrap Up

So, as you can see, there are both pros and cons to keeping your phone in normal mode rather than airplane mode while traveling by plane.

Ideally, more often than not, the best thing you can do is to switch your phone into airplane mode if you don’t really need it.

If just one or two people have their cell phone in normal mode, it won’t present much of an issue.

But if all the passengers did so, there’s a risk of signal disruption for the plane’s GPS, you could really disrupt cell reception as you pass over cell towers, and everyone’s cell phone battery will be severely drained.

Jodie Price
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