Can we use cell phones during a flight?

Mobile phone on the plane: flight mode protects against cost traps on board

Airplane mode: Activate offline mode on the mobile phone

The flight mode on mobile devices (e.g. cell phones, tablets, e-book readers) deactivates all communication connections of the device. With airplane mode switched on, you can no longer make calls, surf the Internet or send messages, for example. On some devices this function is also called “offline mode”.

In an aircraft, you are always obliged to switch on flight mode for take-offs and landings. Alternatively, you can switch off your mobile device completely. Most airlines then allow the use of electronic devices during the flight.

But be careful: If you use your mobile phone on the plane without the flight mode switched on, for example to send holiday photos, it can be expensive for you. There can be high roaming costs. Incidentally, even if you are not actively using your mobile phone on the plane. The mobile devices can also dial into the board network independently.

As a passenger, you have two options for using your mobile phone on the plane:

  1. Roaming via satellite and WiFi
    During the flight - depending on network coverage - you can send text messages via a roaming connection via satellite and on the Internet. Depending on the network coverage, you can even make calls. But: Telephone calls are prohibited on all airlines, because otherwise fellow travelers could feel disturbed. These connections are billed to the mobile phone bill.
    Note, however, that roaming via satellite is very expensive with all cellular providers. These data connections can cost up to 30 euros per megabyte.
    And beware: The data cost airbag and the worldwide information obligations of the mobile phone providers do not currently apply in airplanes. The EU Roaming Regulation does not apply on board aircraft either, because it only includes so-called terrestrial connections (connections on land).
    If you do not want to experience expensive surprises, switch the device to flight mode or switch it off completely during the entire flight.
  2. WiFi on the plane
    The alternative to the expensive connections via satellite is internet access via WLAN. More and more airlines are offering this, especially on long-haul routes. In order to be able to use WLAN in the aircraft, you have to register for this. The costs are billed separately - for example via the credit card.

    You can usually choose between packages and hourly usage. Few airlines even offer WLAN use free of charge.
    Important: Check the prices for WiFi on board beforehand. During the flight you should activate the Airplane mode option and - if desired - establish the Internet connection via WLAN (WiFi).

Make phone calls and surf the web on ships

If you want to use your mobile phone or tablet on cruise ships, you should consider a few things so that this does not result in enormous costs. We have summarized for you in a separate article what you should look out for when surfing and making phone calls on ships.

This content was created by the joint editorial team in cooperation with the Rhineland-Palatinate consumer center for the network of consumer centers in Germany.