Using (cellular) mobile phone during flight

By Sibelius | Apr 22, 2018, 11:01 PM
Earlier tonight I flew SYD-MEL. Just after the cabin crew had finished their final walkthrough before landing, the passenger across the aisle from me got out his phone and started reading, and sending, SMS and emails. There was no internet on the flight so I can only assume he was using his cellular (phone) connection. This is not the first time I have seen a passenger using his mobile phone/cellular data during a flight. How much of a big deal is this? Was the passenger genuinely endangering the people on board? What should I have done?
I did report the passenger to a member of the cabin crew as we were disembarking, and while she did say "He really shouldn't have been doing that", she didn't seem overly concerned.
I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts! Was what happened a major concern?
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By rwSydney | Apr 23, 2018, 03:58 AM
I don’t see how it can be a major risk if you are allowed to bring the phone on board in the first place. Things that can endanger people’s lives (knives, guns, sharp objects etc) are banned from aircraft cabins. If mobile phones were a major hazard then surely the risk would be too great to allow them in the cabin at all.

Mobile phones/handheld devices are allowed to be used in flight mode at all times on most flights these days. Flight attendants don’t go round and check every passenger’s mobile is on flight mode prior to take off so who knows how many people are sending text messages, emails etc once the plane has left the gate.

My understanding of why mobiles should not be used is that they can interfere with the radio transmitters in the flight deck. I guess they rarely do, as I have never heard a captain make an announcement saying that their radio transmitter isn’t working properly due to mobile use!
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By Mr Miyagi | Apr 23, 2018, 05:50 AM
No evidence that cellular phone use puts passengers at risk.
Last edited by ChrisCh at Apr 23, 2018, 09.21 AM.
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By patrickk | Apr 23, 2018, 07:32 AM
I think the issue is one of volume. If everybody has it on there may be electronic interference but one or two my have little effect. I have seen cabin crew tell people to turn them off and there was story of a seeing business men or poltician being kicked off a flight for talking on ther phone after being told not to. The issue of no evidence is a good thing, as it is precuationary principle. Avoiding cases that provides evidence. People should not take bags on emergency evacuations but they do. Nobody has been killed YET, but that does not mean it is safe to do so.
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By GBRGB | Apr 23, 2018, 07:47 AM
Happens a lot, as long as people aren’t talking on it I really don’t care, I am sure if it was a real concern the airlines would make more of an issue out of it.
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By Mr Miyagi | Apr 23, 2018, 08:16 AM
I think the issue is one of volume. If everybody has it on there may be electronic interference but one or two my have little effect. I have seen cabin crew tell people to turn them off and there was story of a seeing business men or poltician being kicked off a flight for talking on ther phone after being told not to. The issue of no evidence is a good thing, as it is precuationary principle. Avoiding cases that provides evidence. People should not take bags on emergency evacuations but they do. Nobody has been killed YET, but that does not mean it is safe to do so.

Bad analogy. The act of taking bags requires additional time. It is reasonable to infer additional risk resulting from delayed evacuation arising from this.

On the other hand there is ZERO evidence that modern cellular devices have any appreciable impact on modern flight equipment.
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By watson374 | Apr 23, 2018, 10:04 AM
Earlier tonight I flew SYD-MEL. Just after the cabin crew had finished their final walkthrough before landing, the passenger across the aisle from me got out his phone and started reading, and sending, SMS and emails. There was no internet on the flight so I can only assume he was using his cellular (phone) connection.


Was the passenger across the aisle actually on a data connection, though? It is possible to 'send' messages and emails while offline; they just sit in the outbox until the connection is reestablished.
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By rob01 | Apr 23, 2018, 10:07 AM
It's just rude really. Like it or not you're in a regulated environment where you are obliged to follow the directions of cabin crew. It's a display of self importance.
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By Ozshanel | Apr 23, 2018, 10:10 AM
The main reason you should switch your phone to flight mode is BECAUSE YOU WERE ASKED TO!! The arrogance of some people who think that certain rules shouldn’t apply to them astounds me. Just because you don’t know the reason for something doesn’t mean you just get to ignore it.
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By Sibelius | Apr 23, 2018, 10:26 AM
Earlier tonight I flew SYD-MEL. Just after the cabin crew had finished their final walkthrough before landing, the passenger across the aisle from me got out his phone and started reading, and sending, SMS and emails. There was no internet on the flight so I can only assume he was using his cellular (phone) connection.


Was the passenger across the aisle actually on a data connection, though? It is possible to 'send' messages and emails while offline; they just sit in the outbox until the connection is reestablished.

Yes, he seemed to be downloading and receiving messages as well as sending them -- so it looked like he was on a cellular data connection.
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By Mr Miyagi | Apr 23, 2018, 10:29 AM
Agree that phones should be put in flight mode if directed by crew.
Last edited by ChrisCh at Apr 23, 2018, 11.04 AM.
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By ausJCP | Apr 23, 2018, 10:35 AM
A consumer cell phone doesn't interfere with the navigation equipment of a three hundred million dollar airplane. It's not a grey area, it just simply does not. There is no evidence to the contrary, and it's not for lack of investigation. In fact, some airlines (e.g. Emirates) already allow passengers to SMS and make / receive phone calls during flight on their personal devices using cell service.

Let your fingers do the walking, and research this information online for yourself. Think rationally; if they were a genuine threat to aviation safety, they would not be allowed in the main cabin. (A satellite phone is a different story, of course, as is a radio transmitter.)

It's probably hard to know with certainty if the pax on your flight was using his cellular service, or just fiddling with his phone... but I do imagine that blatantly using the cellular service of a mobile phone would contribute to the anxiety of neighboring passengers, and should not be done for that reason alone.

That being said, I'd be lying if I said I've never switched my phone off flight mode as we were on the approach to landing. And I've frequently seen flight crew doing the same thing from their galley jump-seats. I'm sure a decent proportion of the plane is doing the same thing.

My advice is to let it go.
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By MarkJohnSon | Apr 23, 2018, 10:45 AM
I've been using my mobile phone on planes as and when I please ever since I've had one. It's completely fine.
Last edited by ChrisCh at Apr 23, 2018, 10.59 AM.
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By Randomtraveller | Apr 23, 2018, 11:09 AM
Just after the cabin crew had finished their final walkthrough before landing

I would be so happy to have cellular reception at 5000m height.
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By mannej | Apr 23, 2018, 11:18 AM

Are there any pilots on here making comments about interference, or is it armchair experts?

IMHO, the reason why the FA rolled their eyes at your comments is that you waited until you were disembarking before you reported it. What realistically are they meant to do at that point in time?

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By ChrisCh | Apr 23, 2018, 11:20 AM
Several comments in this topic have been edited in line with AusBT's long-standing Comment Policy.

Mr Miyagi: You have been reminded of this policy time and time again, including earlier this month when your commenting privileges were suspended. Only a week after that ban was lifted, you've ignored the policy again, and as a result, your account has now been blocked.

MarkJohnSon: You have also received multiple Comment Policy warnings recently, including a final warning, so a decision has been made to suspend your commenting privileges for the rest of the week. If you continue to ignore the Comment Policy after your ability to comment is restored, your account will be blocked also, as these reminders need not continue.

All users are reminded of the Comment Policy, which states: "Don't attack others for their opinion: if you disagree, then make your case. But stay objective and stick to the topic."
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