Frequent travelers know the routine. They sit in their airplane seats and send that last text to a colleague or loved one before turning off their phones. People do, but many don’t understand why everyone turns off their phones before taking a flight. The reason behind this standard operating procedure may surprise you.
Ask most airline passengers why they turn off their phones and most of them will respond the same. You must turn off your mobile phone to avoid interference with the aircraft’s avionics equipment. Although this reason seems plausible, it is not entirely true, at least not anymore.
FAA Security Ban
The FAA limits phone use because it recognizes that cell phones are a potential source of interference. Although the agency cites the interference as the reason for its ban, there are no documented cases of interference, according to a FAA Study 2012.
Following this study, the FAA relaxed some of its restrictions in 2013 allowing passengers to use their phones in airplane mode. Airplane mode turns off the phone’s cellular connection so it doesn’t try to connect to towers on the ground. It lets you turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth so smartphone owners can connect headphones or AirDrop info to and from devices.
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Ban inherited from the FCC
FCC ban on cell phones was instituted 20 years ago to avoid radio interference. Like the FAA, the FCC was concerned about interference from cell phone signals that were sent to cellular networks on the ground. Twenty years ago it might have been a major problem, but the technology has improved.
Now, most aircraft instruments are immune to interference, according to aviation safety professional Allison Markey who spoke with Travel and leisure. The reasons for this ban are outdated, but the FCC has not relaxed its rules …
The real reason for the ban
If the FCC and FAA remove the ban on cellphones, it will be up to individual airlines to allow cellphones. Have you ever wondered why airlines don’t insist on this option? It has little to do with technology and everything to do with public opinion. Most airline passengers do not want to make full use of their cell phone on an airplane. Texting and emailing is okay, but talking is a big ‘No’.
Cell phones and explosions of violence
Most people would be exasperated if the person next to them spoke loudly on their phone. If cell phone use was not restricted, it is assumed that there would be an increase in conflict between passengers.
People can ignore the conversation for a while, but at some point, they’re going to get bored and complain.
Flight attendants would be required to intervene and defuse these situations, removing them from their normal passenger assistance duties.
And all of this may not end with a few disgruntled commuters.
Air travel is stressful and people can be nervous already. Adding mobile phone conversations to the mix can create a powder keg situation. You might see a plane explosion shout matches and punches so violent that a plane can be forced to land in order to evacuate unruly passengers.