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You’ll soon be able to use your phone on EU flights. But passengers aren’t sure that’s a good thing

European travellers will soon be able to use mobile data inflight.
European travellers will soon be able to use mobile data inflight. Copyright canva
Copyright canva
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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A new poll has revealed that passengers are split on new inflight phone rules.


Passengers on flights within the European Union (EU) will soon be allowed to use mobile phones without enabling aeroplane mode.

The new rules - outlined by the European Commission last year - will mean travellers can make phone calls, text and stream videos. But not everyone’s happy.

According to new research by Kayak, one-in-five passengers oppose the change.

21 per cent of British respondents are against the ruling, while 40 per cent welcome it but think there should be a limit on usage with a “quiet hours” time on flights.

“A flight can often be seen as dead time… but for some, it’s part of the experience of going on holiday, relaxing and switching off from the world, having a snooze or watching an in-flight movie, which could be interrupted by others using 5G,” said Evan Day, KAYAK UK country manager.

“Let’s hope that people are respectful of those around them to avoid a ruckus on board.”

Why do passengers have to enable aeroplane mode on flights?

The European Commission has ruled that airlines can provide 5G technology onboard in addition to allowing mobile data.

Today (June 30) is the deadline for member states to provide 5G technology on aircraft.

This is a big change - air passengers in the EU are currently requested to turn off mobile phones or enable flight mode for the whole journey.

This is because historically there was little understanding of how mobile data might affect flight communications, Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, told the BBC.

"There was a concern they could interfere with automatic flight control systems," he said. "What has been found with experience is the risk of interference is very small."

In the US, concerns have been raised over how 5G frequencies might hamper flight systems and even cause alterations to altitude measurements.

Currently, planes require passengers to switch off mobile devices inflight.Cleared

However, this is not a problem in the UK and EU, Whittingham confirmed.

"There is much less prospect of interference," he said. "We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and there are lower power settings than those that have been allowed in the US.”

"The travelling public wants 5G,” Whittingham added. “The regulators will open up that possibility, but there will be steps that will be taken to ensure that whatever they do is safe."

When will airline passengers be able to make phone calls in the EU?

The approval from the European Commission means airlines will soon allow passengers to use mobile phone data on board flights.

This means air passengers will be able to make phone calls, access apps and stream music and videos on flights very soon.

“5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies,” Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, said in a statement.


"The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity," he said.

Airlines will be able to provide high speed internet with the 5G frequencies, which would allow passengers to download a film in a couple of minutes.

Do flight passengers want to use mobile phones on board?

Although the plan has been hailed as a step forward for plane travel, not everyone is happy.

“Given the way people behave with their phones on all other public transport this is depressing news,” one user wrote on Twitter.

“Yet another reason to hate flying. Imagine being stuck in a seat next to somebody on their phone for hours,” said another.


“There isn't even a plan for a quiet carriage!“

Some travellers also enjoy having a break from their phones.

“I love that on a plane (and I don’t fly very often) it is totally no contact [...] It’s a total switch off,” said one Twitter commenter.

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