For Flyers in Europe, No More ‘Airplane Mode’

The modern era of “airplane mode” on flights is coming to an end—in Europe anyway. The European Union says air passengers there will be able to use their phones however they want (such as streaming video or, yes, making phone calls) as of June 2023, reports the BBC. Dai Whittingham, the chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, says new 5G technology makes the longstanding fear of passengers’ phones somehow interfering with a plane’s systems obsolete. All EU member states must make 5G available on flights by the June deadline.

“There is much less prospect of interference,” says Whittingham. “We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and there are lower power settings than those that have been allowed in the US.” As Gizmodo notes, the FCC banned the use of cell phones on US flights in 1991, though the reason is more about interference with cell phone networks on the ground than with a plane’s navigation systems. (It cites this explainer from Business Insider on the topic from 2017.) No word on when, or if, the “airplane mode” restrictions might be similarly lifted in the US. (Read more air travel stories.)

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