Grab an Android phone, iPhone, iPad or even a Windows PC and you’ll see a airplane mode toggle on its various context menus. But what is airplane mode and what does it actually do? How can you use it to your advantage on your phone or PC?
We’ll answer all your questions about airplane mode so you understand how to use it.
What is airplane mode?
Airplane mode, sometimes called airplane mode or flight mode, is a setting available on almost all smartphones, laptops, and similar devices. When you activate airplane mode, you stop all signal transmissions from your device. You will see an airplane icon in the status bar of your device when it is turned on.
The feature is known as airplane mode because most airlines prohibit the use of wireless devices on their planes, especially when taking off and landing. There’s some debate as to whether phones can actually interfere with radio equipment on airplanes, but most think it’s best to err on the side of caution.
What does airplane mode do?
Airplane mode disables all wireless features on your phone or laptop, including:
- Cellular connection: You cannot make calls, send text messages, or use mobile data to access the Internet.
- Wifi: Your device will disconnect from any existing Wi-Fi connection and will not connect to any new one.
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a short-range connection that allows you to link your phone to speakers, headphones, and more. Airplane mode disables it.
After enabling airplane mode, you can manually turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth back on, while keeping airplane mode enabled to block cellular signals.
Modern versions of iOS and Android have convenient settings for airplane mode. On modern devices, turning on airplane mode while connected to a Bluetooth device will not break the Bluetooth connection. You can still turn off Bluetooth manually, if you want.
GPS is a bit different. It does not transmit radio waves; Your phone’s GPS function only receives signals from GPS satellites. Depending on your device, airplane mode may or may not disable GPS.
While offline map apps work without an internet connection, features like live traffic won’t work in airplane mode since you don’t have an internet connection.
How to toggle airplane mode on Android
To enable airplane mode on your Android device, follow these steps:
- Swipe down from the top of the screen twice to open the quick settings panel. Alternatively, you can swipe down once with two fingers.
- Look for the Airplane mode toggle on the grid. If you don’t see it, you may need to swipe to the side to access more icons.
- Tap the switch and your phone will go into airplane mode. You will see an airplane icon in your status bar, indicating that all affected radios are disabled.
Repeat these steps to disable airplane mode. Please note that it may take a moment for your phone to reconnect to Wi-Fi and mobile data after exiting airplane mode.
If your phone doesn’t have this shortcut for some reason, you can toggle Airplane mode on Settings > Network & Internet > Airplane mode. As with most Android menus, this can be slightly different depending on your device.
How to toggle airplane mode on iPhone or iPad
If you are an iPhone or iPad user, check out our full guide on Airplane Mode on iPhone and iPad. That will teach you everything you need to know about airplane mode and what it affects on your device.
How to toggle airplane mode on Windows and Mac
In Windows 10 and Windows 11, you can toggle Airplane mode through Action Center. Press Win + A to open it. Once it appears, look for the Airplane mode toggle at the bottom. Click here to enable airplane mode and cut off all network signals.
If you don’t see the panel in Windows 10, click Expand to show more; may be hidden by default. In Windows 11, click the Pencil and make sure you have the icon set to show up.
As it turns out, macOS doesn’t have a dedicated airplane mode option. However, we have discussed how to effectively put your MacBook into airplane mode.
Does airplane mode save battery?
Yes, airplane mode definitely helps your device to save battery. The various radios in your phone consume a lot of power. They regularly send app notifications over Wi-Fi, communicate with Bluetooth devices and cell phone towers, and check your location.
All of that consumes a lot of power, so disabling them all at once is a great way to keep your phone alive for longer. Since your phone doesn’t work as much in airplane mode, it should also charge faster.
Can you use Wi-Fi while in airplane mode?
While it depends on your device, most modern phones allow you to use Wi-Fi even when in airplane mode. When you enable airplane mode, Wi-Fi will turn off, but you can manually enable it again. In some cases, Wi-Fi may not turn off when you first turn on airplane mode.
After putting your Android device in airplane mode, swipe down from the top of the screen twice to open quick settings again, then touch Wifi. Wait a few seconds and you will see Wi-Fi turn on and connect (if your phone supports it).
On an iPhone, open Control Center (swipe down from the top-right corner on iPhone models without a home button, or swipe up from the bottom if your device has a home button) and tap the Wifi change in the same way.
Many airlines now offer in-flight Wi-Fi, so you can enable Wi-Fi while in airplane mode to enjoy it, if applicable. If you are unsure, you should check with an airline employee before attempting to connect. However, planes generally allow Wi-Fi only when above 10,000 feet, so be careful to keep Wi-Fi off during takeoff and landing.
Does Bluetooth work in airplane mode?
This is a similar scenario to the previous one. Enabling airplane mode disables Bluetooth (except with the exceptions noted above), but on most phones and laptops, you can turn it back on using the shortcut button. Airlines generally don’t care much for Bluetooth, because its range is so short (about 30 feet in most cases).
Enabling Bluetooth allows you to pair your Bluetooth headset, keyboard, or similar devices. Even when you’re not on a plane, you can enable airplane mode to save battery life while listening to music offline through a Bluetooth headset.
Does airplane mode use data?
No. Because enabling airplane mode prevents your phone from connecting to your mobile provider’s cellular network, you won’t use any data in airplane mode.
What does airplane mode do for games?
If you love playing games on your phone but hate seeing ads, airplane mode can help. Because it disables all internet connections, enabling airplane mode will hide ads in offline mobile games. Just make sure you don’t turn Wi-Fi back on after enabling airplane mode.
However, if a game requires your device to be online, you will not be able to play it in airplane mode. You will have to try airplane mode with your favorite games and see what happens.
Do the alarms work in airplane mode?
Yes, the alarms will sound normally, even in airplane mode. They do not depend on any type of Internet or mobile connection. Open the Watch app on your device and switch to the alarms tab to set your alarm as normal.
Does Snapchat work in airplane mode?
No. Since Snapchat relies on an internet connection, it won’t work in airplane mode.
Can you receive calls and text messages in airplane mode?
No, because your phone is not connected to cell service. If someone calls you and your phone is in airplane mode, it will communicate to your voicemail as if your phone were turned off. You will see the SMS text messages you received while in airplane mode once you disable it.
However, if you use Wi-Fi calling, you will not have this limitation. Both your phone and your carrier must support this feature, and you must enable it to make traditional calls and SMS texts over Wi-Fi.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp and iMessage are an exception to this. If your phone is in airplane mode but connected to Wi-Fi, you can still message other people using instant messaging services because they connect to the Internet, not carrier networks.
How to listen to music in airplane mode
Since you have no internet connection in airplane mode, music streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, and the like won’t work. The only way to stream music in airplane mode is to turn Wi-Fi back on, as we mentioned.
Assuming you can’t connect to Wi-Fi, you have two options for listening to music in airplane mode. First, if you subscribe to a paid streaming service, like Spotify Premium or YouTube Music Premium, you can download music to your mobile device using the app. This allows you to listen to it even in airplane mode.
If you don’t want to pay for a premium streaming subscription, you can still listen to the local music you own. You will need to sync your music to your phone and use an offline music player app to do so.
That’s what you can do in airplane mode
We’ve answered some of the most common questions about airplane mode on your phone or laptop. In short, it allows you to turn off all wireless activity on your device, which is necessary on some flights but useful even on the ground. And you can tweak airplane mode by turning on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth manually if you still want to allow some connections.
If you have a long flight coming up, we recommend downloading your media files to your phone so you’re not dependent on an Internet connection. That way, you have plenty to enjoy without paying for airline Wi-Fi.