Travel Tips

Tiana Gullotta

The scary reason why you should put your phone on airplane mode when flying

The scary reason why you should put your phone on airplane mode when flying

Before take-off, flight attendants advise travellers to either turn off their mobile phones or to activate the airplane mode setting.

Airplane mode is designed for safety whilst on the flight as well as helping passengers avoid heavy roaming charges.

Depending on the mobile device and the plane the passenger is on, the device could automatically connect to the airplane’s antenna and collect roaming fees when not on airplane mode, reports The Sun.

This is due to settings on the mobile phone which automatically connect to roaming networks that are available on the plane.

A passenger found this out the hard way after revealing to the The Irish Times that he had left his mobile phone on in the overhead compartment without turning it on airplane mode and ended up racking up a fine of AU$409. He received the bill a few weeks later from his provider AT&T.

The company said the passenger’s phone connected to the plane’s antenna and used data that was “outside an unlimited international roaming plan,” which resulted in the extra fees.

Although this isn’t the case in all circumstances, the airline confirmed the situation, stating that the passenger’s device “may connect to the in-flight roaming network” without connecting to the fee-paying Wi-Fi network.

The money is directly billed to the service provider, which is what happened in this case.

This is not only possible on airplanes, but also at sea, where extra fees can be accumulated while travelling across the ocean.

In 2016 British man Mark Stokes received a $590 bill from UK telco O2 after his phone’s data was roaming while he was aboard a ferry travelling between England and France.

Surprisingly, Stokes incurred the extra charges even though he had paid for a “bolt-on” package to be able to use his phone as normal while travelling.

According to the BBC, Stokes was a victim of his phone automatically connecting to the ferry’s own mobile network, which works via satellite.

The satellite network is not included in the usual mobile networks, meaning that normal phone tariffs aren’t included and therefore, that is how the charges were accumulated.

So, keep these tips in mind when travelling, to avoid being caught out with outrageous roaming mobile phone charges while travelling.