Phone calls are a part of our lives, and if you’re on a long-haul flight, but suddenly remember that you need to make a phone call, you might question if you actually can make a phone call from a plane?.
The answer is yeah, sure, you can make a phone call on any airplane using WiFi, but you cannot use cellular data.
In this post, I’ll debunk some common misconceptions about making and receiving phone calls on planes. I’ll also give you some tips on how to make a phone call above 35,000 feet in the sky, if you really need to.
Can you make a phone call from an airplane?
Even though you can use your smartphone to make a phone call on a plane, it’s not always a good approach, because there are some notable rules and regulations that you should be careful about.
The FCC Warns about making phone calls on planes
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), says that you are not allowed to use your cell phone or any other personal electronic devices to connect to a cellular network (cellular data) while the plane is in the air.
Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are air- borne (not touching the ground).FCC
The FCC’s statement is clear: you cannot make or answer a phone call on a plane using cellular data.
Your mobile phone needs to be in airplane mode while the airplane is in the air, which disables your cellular data, when you’re flying.
This is a comment from a passenger on a YouTube video.
Mobile devices do not cause any interference whatsoever with avionics on an aircraft …..The reason they tell you to stow and turn off your mobile devices for takeoff and landing is because of legal reasons regarding safety and liability. Technically it’s the PIC’s job to make sure passengers are paying attention to the safety briefing before every flight, and as for takeoff and landing, it’s best not to have loose, heavy, metal objects flying around if there’s some turbulence. Your pilot has a tablet and a smartphone in the cockpit with him, and neither are on airplane mode.
In this user opinion mobile devices don’t actually interfere with the airplane communication system, It’s more of precautionary purposes.
There is replacement technology that will permit you to make calls without the risk of interfering with the plane’s electronics or ground networks.
It’s called a picocell, which is basically a mini cell tower installed on the plane. It connects your phone to the internet via satellite, and then to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
Some airlines have picocells on their planes, and some countries have allowed them to operate.
In Europe, you can make calls on some flights using a service called OnAir. In the US, however, the FCC has not approved this technology yet, and it’s still under review.
So, depending on where you’re flying and which airline you’re flying with, you may or may not be able to make a phone call from a plane using a picocell. But even if you can, there’s another factor to consider: the airline policy.
Read Also: Can You Use Internet On a Plane?
Even if the law allows you to make a phone call from a plane, the airline may not. Most airlines in the US have a policy that does not allow voice calls on their flights, regardless of the technology used.
Most airlines are working hard to better serve their customers; “they prioritize safety over everything else”.
So they want to have a quiet and comfortable experience for passengers, and they don’t want to avoid any potential conflicts or complaints that could arise from noisy or annoying phone conversations.
For example, most U.S Airlines stated that they will not permit voice calls on their planes.
They may, however, allow text messaging, email, or other forms of non-voice communication.
Some airlines outside the US have different rules. They may allow voice calls, but with some restrictions or even charges.
For example, Emirates allow voice calls on some of their flights, but they charge a premium fee for them, and they limit the duration and volume of the calls. They also reserve the right to disable the service at any time, if they deem it necessary.
So, before you make a phone call from a plane, you should check the airline’s policy and the availability of the service.
You should also be respectful of your fellow passengers and the crew, and follow their instructions and requests.
The Increasing demand of phone calls on planes
So far, we’ve seen that making a phone call on some flights is possible but limited to WiFi. But will this change in the future?
Will we see more airlines and countries allowing voice calls on planes?, or will we see more restrictions and regulations?
There is no clear answer to this question, as different stakeholders have different opinions and interests.
On one hand, some passengers and businesses may want to have the option to make phone calls on planes, for entertainment, productivity, or emergency reasons.
On the other hand, some passengers and airlines may prefer to keep the flights quiet and peaceful.
There is also the issue of technology and cost. While picocells are a viable solution for making phone calls on planes, they are not cheap or easy to install and operate.
They also pose some security and privacy risks, as they could be hacked or intercepted.
Therefore, it’s not likely that we’ll see a widespread adoption of phone calls on planes anytime soon. However, we may see some alternatives that could make it easier or more appealing.
How to make a phone call from a plane?
If you’ve decided that you really need to make a phone call from a plane, and you’ve checked that it’s legal and allowed by the airline, here are some tips to follow:
- Use a headset or earphones, and speak softly. This will reduce the background noise and the disturbance to fellow passengers. It will also improve the sound quality and clarity of your voice.
- Choose a suitable time and place. Try to avoid making phone calls during takeoff, landing, or turbulence, as these are critical phases of the flight, and you should pay attention to the safety instructions and announcements.
- Keep it short and sweet. Don’t make long or unnecessary phone calls or chats.
- Be polite and respectful. Remember that you’re not the only one on the plane, and that your phone call could affect the comfort and experience of others.
Airfones or radiophones
If you don’t have a smartphone, or you don’t want to use Wi-Fi or picocells, there is another option for making phone calls from a plane: Airfones or Radiophones.
These are special phones that are installed on some planes (not all of them), usually in the seatbacks or armrests, and that use radio frequencies to connect to ground stations or satellites.
Airfones or radiophones are outdated and not very common or popular nowadays (they are old fashioned), as they have been largely replaced by smartphones and Wi-Fi.
However, some airlines still offer them on some of their flights, especially on older or smaller planes. They may also be available on private jets or charter flights.
To use an Airfone, you need to have a credit card or a calling card, and you need to follow the instructions on the phone or the screen.
You can dial the number you want to call, or you can use the directory or the operator service.
However, there are some drawbacks to using Airphones. They are usually very expensive, charging several dollars per minute, plus connection fees and taxes.
They are also not very reliable, as they may drop or lose the signal, or have poor sound quality. They are also subject to the same laws and policies as cell phones, so you can’t use them during takeoff, landing, or when the seatbelt sign is on.
Making phone calls on a plane is a never ending debate, with many pros and cons, and many rules and regulations.
While it is possible to make a call, it is not very practical or popular, and it may not be worth the hassle or the cost.
However, if you really need to make a phone call from a plane, the best way to do it is by using Inflight Wi-Fi.