What is ‘Flight Mode’ for on your mobile phone or tablet – and do you really need to use it when flying?

We’ve all seen it on our phone, but do we know what ‘Flight Mode’ means and is it something we really need to use when flying?

Read our guide  to ‘Flight Mode’ and other settings languishing unloved on your mobile’s menu – and how they can be used while travelling on planes or once you arrive at your destination.

Airplane Mode and Flight Mode… explained

All you need to know about ‘Flight’ or ‘Airplane’ mode on your phone.

Flight Mode activated on an Apple device... but exactly does it do?

Flight Mode activated on an Apple device… but what exactly does it do here and on Android phones?

Click below to find out all you need to know about the wonder that is ‘Flight Mode’… Enjoy!

What does Flight Mode do: Click here to reveal all

What does it do: Switching on  ‘Flight’ mode will disable a device’s cellular ‘radio’, WiFi and Bluetooth. It will also completely or partly shutdown its GPS capability.

Here’s a bit more detail of how this impacts on your device: Find out how it affects your life

Here’s a bit more detail of how this impacts on your device: These are how the various elements of ‘Flight Mode’ affect your phone.

Cellular: Your phone/device will break off communication with cell towers and stop searching for new connections.
What this actually means: You will not receive voice calls, text messages, or any other communication that relies on a cellular connection.

WiFi: Your device will give up scanning for available WiFi connections. If you’re already connected to a network, it’ll cut you off.
What this actually means:  You won’t be able to connect to the internet through a WiFi network.

Bluetooth: Your phone or device will have its Bluetooth functionality disabled.
What this actually means: In theory, this means you won’t be able to use your wireless headsets, remote keyboard or mouse. However, once at cruising level, most airlines will allow you to reactivate Bluetooth as long as the phone remains in a safe ‘Flight Mode’.

GPS: ‘Flight Mode’ will disable GPS-reliant functions on most devices. However, it is inconsistent and some devices will continue to receive information. GPS is a receive-only communication
What this actually means: Disabling GPS means it’s unlikely your sat-nav app will work, but we’re sure the pilot knows where he’s going if you’re in the air. However, leaving flight mode on when on the ground is likely to help you get lost as map positioning and sat-nav software won’t know where it is. Additionally, while many phones – such as iPhones – will disable GPS, others will not. Make sure you know if your phone does as some airlines demand it. If yours doesn’t, you could be forced to switch it off for the entire flight.

Why do I need it: Click here to get answers

Why do I need it: It’s all about safety. A typical mobile device is continually attempting to ‘make friends’ with nearby cell towers, sniffing out fresh, strong WiFi connections and looking to hook up with nearby Bluetooth-discoverable hardware. If it can’t find any nearby cells, it will boost power – causing a lot of ‘noise’ that can interfere with highly sensitive navigation equipment… which is likely to upset the man at the pointy end. Well that’s what prompted the laws in the first place, but in reality, modern-day planes have robust systems and it’s unlikely your phone will cause any major problems. Your phone is more likely to disrupt communications on the ground, as it continually attempts to switch from cell to cell while travelling at 500mph+. It would also leave your phone’s battery drained. However… as you will see below, this does not mean your device will be left obsolete in the air.

But my airline has onboard WiFi, so doesn’t that make it obsolete: Good question - and we've got the answer

But my airline has onboard WiFi, so doesn’t that make it obsolete: No. Switching on ‘Flight Mode’ will disable communication functions, but most will then let you enable the individual channels one at a time. This mean that your phone can be in a safe ‘Flight Mode’ but leaving you free to enjoy onboard WiFi.

Hold on… didn’t the European Aviation Safety Agency say ‘Flight Mode’ wasn’t required anymore: Funny you should ask

Hold on… didn’t the European Aviation Safety Agency say ‘Flight Mode’ wasn’t required anymore: Yes. Here’s a direct quote from its website.

“From the 26 September 2014 EASA has made it possible for airlines to allow passengers to use their PEDs throughout the flight, regardless of whether the device is transmitting or not, i.e. in ‘aeroplane mode’ or not.”

But… it goes on to say that the decision is down to individual airlines and most of these – aside from some exclusions for premium class passengers – have kept things as they are. So, don’t go quoting European Aviation Safety Agency regulations at the member of cabin crew who’s asking you to switch off your mobile. You can read more about this here.

How do i know if ‘Flight Mode’ is enabled: Simply click here and find out

How do i know if ‘Flight Mode’ is enabled: You can easily check if ‘Flight Mode’ is enabled by looking for an ‘airplane’ icon in the top bar of your phone. Keep an eye out for this when you’re on the ground, too, as it can easily be activated by accident – leaving you at risk of missing important call or text messages.

See that little plane in the left? That means Flight Mode is on

See that little plane in the top left? That means Flight Mode is on

Any other cheeky uses for ‘Flight Mode’ when I am not in flight mode, myself: Yes there are...

Any other cheeky uses for ‘Flight Mode’ when I am not in flight mode, myself: Funny you should ask – yes there are. Here are just a few…

Saving battery power… if you’re running out of power, switching to ‘Flight Mode’ will halt your phone’s power-zapping hunger for searching out new cell towers, WiFi networks or checking for updates on countless apps running in the background. Remember, you can cherry pick certain communications systems you want live once in ‘Flight Mode’. For example, enable WiFi to extend browsing time by leaving cellular communications disabled.

Faster charging… Heading out and need to pump as much juice as possible into your phone’s battery? Doing this in ‘Flight Mode’ will ensure all the power is packing your battery and not being spent on searching for cell towers, incoming text messages, WiFi networks and other such expendables.

Getting good night’s sleep… If you really don’t want to be disturbed, simply hit the ‘Flight Mode’ button and you’re on your own – whether on a plane or not.

Where do I find ‘Flight Mode’: That's a fair question - find out more by clicking here

Where do I find ‘Flight Mode’:  On Apple devices, you should be able to swipe up from the bottom of your home screen for a shortcut to the ‘Flight Mode’ setting.

Android and other operating systems will vary, so check your manual or search on Google if you haven’t already encountered your Flight Mode, Airplane Mode, or even ‘Aeroplane Mode’.

Other settings for travellers to be aware of…

It’s not just ‘Flight Mode’ that is reported to cause confusion for users – here are a few more you might not have used before…

See what other goodies you might be missing...

See what other goodies you might be missing…

Maildrop (iOS 9.2 and above): What's that then?

Maildrop (iOS 9.2 and above): Not so much a setting, but an option that can pop-up when you attempt to send a large file – such as images and videos – by email. This will offer you the chance to bypass your slow email software by Mail uploading the file to iCloud and providing a download link to share instead – which remains valid for 30 days. Could help cut costs when abroad and leave more time for holidaying rather that waiting for your attachment to send.
How to enable: It will come and find you if attempting to send a large file.

MailDrop in action

MailDrop in action

Nightshift: Nifty feature to help you sleep after using your device... great for long-haul flights

Nightshift: This is a feature that arrived with the iPhone 6 and newer iPads. This changes screen colours to give it less glare and move away from the blue hue that we know can disturb sleep for those using iPhones before turning in. This is really useful for those on a long-haul flight that want to use their device, but also get some quality rest. This is not available on Android, but there are several apps that can be downloaded to do something similar.
How to enable: Simply swipe up from the bottom of your screen and it’ll be there.

Android users: Night Shift is iOS-only, but those using Android devices can download this app to get the same benefit. Click here to check out the Twilight app.

Night Shift setting

Apple’s Night Shift setting

Do not disturb: Make sure you understand this

Do not disturb: This iOS feature uses a crescent moon as its icon and allows users to prevent unwanted calls disturbing them. It’s not a blunt instrument either; users can set people they want to receive calls from, along with a setting that can allow persistent callers to be put through – ensuring you don’t miss an emergency call, for example. Use this when you’re on holiday to ensure you get the rest you deserve– especially if staying in different timezones where a call from a PPI firm back at home will wake you in the middle of the night. Android-powered devices also have a similar ‘Do Not Disturb’ option.

How to enable: Apple users can either swipe up from the bottom of the screen to enable, or go in through settings to get more options. Android users should check their manual as access methods can differ.

Don Not Disturb

Stop that PPI fiirm calling at 3am while you’re holidaying in Thailand… for example

Camera shortcut: Never miss that winning holiday snap again!

Camera shortcut: Never miss that winning holiday snap again! Use these shortcuts to your camera.

Apple users: Simply swipe from right to left on the home screen and the camera will instantly appear.

Android users: Look for the camera icon located bottom right on your home screen. Press and snap from there..

Swipe from right to left on an iPhone to instantly launch your camera

Swipe from right to left on an iPhone or iPad to instantly launch your camera – while many Android devices have an icon on the bottom right of the lock screen

Auto-rotate: More likely to annoy than help... so here's how it works

Auto-rotate: This is more likely to annoy than help – by locking the device’s display and stopping it from rotating. It’s quite likely that you’ve accidentally set this.

How to enable – or disable: On an Apple device swipe up from the bottom and click the icon, as shown above. Swiping down twice from the top left of your Android device should also bring you to the relevant icon to tap.

Auto Rotate... shown here on an Android device

Auto Rotate… shown here on an Android device

Here’s what the iPhone easy-access menu has to offer…

Here’s what the icons mean when you swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen. Just touch the red and black icons to find out more.

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