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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

As soon as you board the plane you know the drill: seatbelts fastened, tray tables up and mobile phones switched off. You tweet till the last second about the injustice of having to turn off your phone, what harm can it do by leaving it on? Does it really make a difference?

The rules

Before leaving the gate, flight attendants ask us to turn off our mobile phones during take-off and before landing. For cruising altitude, we’re allowed to use them as “electronic devices” to play music, games, etc but they must be switched to flight mode. The majority of airlines prohibit the use of mobile phones on planes because it could affect the navigation instruments in the cockpit.


Some facts

There are some studies that suggest there is a connection between the use of mobile phones and the function of instruments in the cockpits, although to use of mobile phones has never been the cause of an accident or electronic malfunction. The thing is, one mobile phone being used may not cause any disruption to the instruments at all but a number of them could.

To date there is no proof that mobile phones have ever caused system failures. Since the no-phone ban, technology has totally changed (we’re talking the 1980s here) so why are mobiles still banned? One report from the IEEE Spectrum suggested that the only reason there is still a ban on phones is because the FAA and FCC aren’t willing to spend the money on ground safety tests.


Until safety studies are actually carried out and conclusive proof can be found that mobile phones either do or don’t disrupt flight instruments it’s best to keep your mobiles switched off and turned to the flight mode. Some phone systems can actually create a buzz in the radio systems which can make it difficult to pilots to hear ground control.

If you think about it, it may not be such a bad idea to keep them banned. If mobile phones were permitted in-flight would you actually want to sit in a plane with a gaggle of chatty-mouths on their phones because there’s nothing else to do? We complain about it enough on other modes of transportation. At least on planes, you can get some shut-eye, catch up on some reading or put your seat back and enjoy a film without having to worry about your neighbour’s phone going off for the umpteenth time. Just one more annoying thing for people to do on planes!

What do you think about using mobiles on planes? Should they be allowed?

From flying with fresh fillings to the best time to book flights, check out more travel myth busters on the Traveller’s Blog!

Imgs: ryan_fung, wbaiv / Flickr cc.

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