What Is Airplane Mode: Purposes, Functions and Activation

Airplane mode is a technology feature commonly found on mobile devices. However, not many people have practical knowledge of its use and implications.

This article will help you:

  • gain a comprehensive understanding about What is airplane mode, what does airplane mode actually do, how does it work, what is its purpose
  • how to enable or disable it on various devices
  • how to use it to your advantage on your phone or PC
What is airplane mode

I. What Is Airplane Mode?

Airplane mode is also called flight mode or aeroplane mode, which is a setting available on most smartphones, laptops and similar mobile devices. It disables the device’s ability to send or receive signals while still allowing users to use other functions that do not require signal transmission.

Airplane mode is often represented by an airplane icon.

II. How Does Airplane Mode Work?

Airplane mode works by disabling all wireless communication capabilities on a device, including WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular data and GPS. This is gained by disabling the device’s radio transceiver responsible for sending and receiving wireless signals.

When airplane mode is activated, other functions of your device like camera, games, and music player, will still work as normal.

III. What Are Purposes of Airplane Mode? Benefits

The initial purpose of airplane mode was mainly to reduce the interference on commercial flights, because the wireless communication signals may interfere with the plane instrumentation panel.

However, these days, most airplanes have WiFi available or cellular access. So, airplane mode now is used for other purposes as follows. These are also benefits of using airplane mode.

  • Troubleshooting: when there is a problem with your cellular connection or WiFi, a quick fix is to turn on and off airplane mode for a few seconds to reboot the entire phone. 
  • Save battery life: because the phone does not have to constantly search for WiFi networks, Bluetooth connections, or cellular networks, which consume power
  • Avoid roaming charges: airplane mode prevents the phone from connecting to other cellular networks, therefore avoiding unexpected charges.
  • Avoid distractions: users can eliminate interruptions from incoming calls, SMS, or notifications during activities like sleeping or meetings, etc.
  • Prevent interference in sensitive environments: like medical centers or hospital
  • Improve device performance: enabling airplane mode will turn off some features, thereby improving performance of some other features like loading times.
  • Comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): the regulations and guidelines of FAA mandate that passengers must switch off cellular connectivity during certain phases of a flight.

IV. What Happens When You Turn On Airplane Mode?

When you turn on airplane mode on your device, the following things will happen:

  • Disable cellular communications: you cannot make/receive voice calls, or send/receive text messages over the cellular network.
  • WiFi: Wifi is typically turned off by default. But you can manually re-enable WiFi to access the Internet, such as on the flights which offer WiFi services.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth may remain activated because it is considered safe during flights. You can still use some Bluetooth-enabled devices such as keyboards or wireless headphones.
  • GPS: Sometimes, GPS is disabled despite it being a passive system which only receives signals. That depends on the manufacturer’s choice. 
  • Selective re-activation: while the airplane mode is on, you can still individually turn on WiFi, Bluetooth or GPS (if available) without reactivating the cellular radio.
Things happen when you switch on airplane mode
If you switch on the WiFi, it does not affect airplane mode

V. How To Enable And Disable Airplane Mode

On mode devices, airplane mode can be activated through the settings menu of the device or by using a dedicated hardware switch.

To enable and disable airplane mode on iPhone or Android, Windows or Mac, follow these steps:

On iPhone and Android devices: you can pull down the quick access controls from the top of your device screen to find the airplane-shaped icon.

How to enable airplane mode

On laptops that run Windows: click on the WiFi signal indicator and you will see an icon for toggling on the airplane mode button. 

▶ On a PC: airplane mode is found in the notifications at the bottom right of the desktop. 

Turn on airplane mode on PC / laptop

VI. When To Use Airplane Mode?

Airplane mode is used on different cases, which are:

  • On airplanes during the time of takeoff and landing.
  • In areas where wireless communication is prohibited, such as libraries or hospitals
  • When you want to save battery power
  • When you want to improve your sleep quality
  • When you want to protect your privacy or security

VII. Does Airplane Mode Impact The Device Battery?

Yes. Airplane mode can affect the battery of a device, but in a positive way by:

  • reducing power consumption thanks to no need to constantly search for and maintain connections
  • extending the device’s battery life thanks to reduced power consumption.

VIII. Misconceptions About Airplane Mode 

Some misconceptions about airplane mode are:

  • Airplane mode is only for airplanes: In addition to be used on flights, airplane mode is also useful in other situations like saving battery, or temporarily stopping wireless connections (at a hospital or during a meeting).
  • You can’t use your phone at all on an airplane: airplane mode disables the cellular connections, but you can still use your phone for other functions such as listening to music, watching downloaded movies, or playing offline games.
  • Airplane mode blocks all communications: airplane mode only turns off cellular signal, you can still re-enable WiFi and Bluetooth even while in airplane mode. 
  • Switching off the phone equals airplane mode: Turning off the phone powers down all functions. Airplane mode allows the device to be used with the cellular signals disabled.
  • GPS does not work in airplane mode: some devices (Manufacturers) still allow GPS function in airplane mode.
  • It is illegal to not use airplane mode on a flight: While it is a rule given by airlines and regulators, it is not a legal issue. But, if you do not comply with the instructions of the cabin crew, including the use of airplane mode, can result in legal problems.
  • Airplane mode completely eradicates radiation: airplane mode reduces emissions from your device, not removes them entirely.


Does airplane mode save battery?

Yes, airplane mode helps your device save battery life. Some functions like notification pushing, communicating with Bluetooth devices or cell towers, checking location take a lot of power, so disabling them at once will help your phone avoid doing much work. This is a good way to keep your phone alive for longer. 

Can I use Wifi in airplane mode?

It depends on your device. Most modern mobile devices allow you to use WiFi when airplane mode is activated. It means when the airplane mode is turned on, it will shut off WiFi, but you can still turn it on manually. 

Does bluetooth work in airplane mode?

It depends on your device. Enable airplane mode will disable bluetooth, but on most phones and laptops, you can turn it back on by toggling. Airlines do not usually care much about the function of bluetooth, because it ranges so short (about 30 feet).

Does airplane mode use data?

No. Turning on airplane mode will prevent your phone from connecting to the cellular network of your network carrier. Therefore, you will not use any data in airplane mode.

Does airplane mode turn off games?

It depends on the type of games, offline or online. If you love to play games but hate to see ads when playing, airplane mode will help hide ads in offline mobile games. Make sure you do not turn WiFi back on after turning on airplane mode. But if a game requires you phone to be online, you cannot play it in airplane mode. 

Does the alarm work in airplane mode?

Yes, the alarm still works  as normal, even in airplane mode because it does not depend on internet or cellular connection. Open the Clock app on your phone and set your alarm as normal.