What is flight mode? What your phone can still do in airplane mode

Don’t board an aeroplane with your phone before you read this.

It’s summer holiday time! If you’re hopping on a plane to get some summer sun, you’ll want to know about flight mode (or airplane mode, as it’s also known), a setting on your phone designed for use on planes.

So what does it do? And do you really need to use it? Read on, and we’ll explain all so you’re well prepared before you get to the departure gate.

[Read more: Five of the best inflight gadgets]

What is flight mode?

It’s a mode on your phone that switches off the data connection, Bluetooth and wi-fi. It effectively cuts off your phone from communicating with any other devices, in order to stop it interfering with the plane’s equipment.

How does flight mode work?

It turns off data, Bluetooth and wi-fi in one fell swoop, rather than you having to switch off each manually.

How do you activate flight mode?

Just tap the flight mode icon – it looks like an aeroplane. On an iOS device, you can find it by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Panel. On an Android phone, swipe down from the top of the screen to open the Quick Settings menu. The icon looks the same on both iOS and Android.

What can you phone do in flight mode?

You can open apps, play games, use features like the calculator and calendar... Basically do anything that doesn't require a data connection.

Do you have to activate flight mode on a plane?

It’s advised, but not essential. The general consensus is if it really posed a risk to flight safety, the flight attendants would insist it was switched on, and come round checking everyone’s device. As it is, they just request you do so. So you’ll probably be fine.

In 2013, the guidelines were relaxed to allow the use of Bluetooth and wi-fi on the plane. That means you can connect to your wireless headphones and/or to the plane’s onboard wi-fi service (though not all airlines offer this, and some charge a fee). You can turn on Bluetooth and wi-fi without deactivating flight mode – just activate flight mode, then tap the Bluetooth and wi-fi symbols.

Which airlines allow Bluetooth and wi-fi to be used mid-flight?

The rules vary depending on the airline, so check with yours before you fly.

[Read more: Self-cleaning plane seats could be available in two years]

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