Turning on airplane mode on your smartphone and other electronic gadgets will no longer be mandatory on flights in the European Union in the coming months. A new directive by the European Commission states that airlines can offer 5G mobile connectivity on flights, and passengers will not be required to turn on airplane mode when boarding the flight. EU member states have until June 30, 2023, to make 5G bands available for airplanes and implement the new directive, as per a report.
A report by BBC states that the European Union is paving the way for mobile connectivity in flights within the continent, and passengers will likely not be prompted by airline crews to turn on airplane mode when boarding the aircraft. Airlines could offer 5G connectivity on flights, allowing passengers to use mobile phones and smartphones normally to place and receive calls, or access data services for activities such as video streaming, web browsing, and text chats.
Currently, some mobile phone functionality is permitted on certain flights globally, including the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
5G connectivity, including smartphones attempting to connect to mobile networks, have typically been known to interfere with aircraft instruments and readings, and has usually been the reason for prompting passengers to turn on airplane mode when boarding the aircraft. In the EU, the specific bands used are said to be less likely to cause this interference, hence the directive to favour passenger convenience in this case.
In most cases, using airplane mode might still be recommended, since your smartphone attempting to connect to a mobile network is a battery-intensive process and will cause your phone’s battery to drain rapidly.
However, if airlines are allowed to install infrastructure to allow passengers to connect directly to their own subscribed data services, this could ensure seamless connectivity all through flights, including the ability to place and receive calls mid-air.