Bye bye airplane mode — at least for some. On November 24, 2022, the European Commission stated that passengers on flights in the EU will be able to make cell phone calls and (utilize all other cell phone functions) from airplanes during flight. This change takes effect by June 30, 2023.

Airlines will have the opportunity to offer the 5G service to passengers by using special network equipment called pico-cells. Networks employing that technology makes in-flight connections between personal devices and ground-based equipment via satellite.


Passengers will be able to call, text and stream in midair, but that does not mean that the service will be free. Cellphone companies and airlines will no doubt charge fees (perhaps hefty ones) since the connection may involve connecting to networks from multiple countries and other. In addition, airlines will have to make a considerable investment in onboard equipment that allows the connection of terrestrial mobile networks with the plane in flight.

This won’t be the first time that passengers have been able to call from the plane. Remember the phones that were placed on seatbacks or the armrest between the seats? Although the phones were there, hardly anyone used them as I recall. Unless the cost is prohibitive, I don’t think that will be the case with cell phones.

CNN photo

In 2020, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission abandoned a proposed rule that would have allowed cell phone calls on flights in the U.S..

I thought this item deserved a post of its own rather than being included with other travel news. Without getting into the weeds of the differences between 5G systems in the U.S. and EU and assuming no effect on flight safety, what do you think of passengers making calls, facetiming and Zooming from 30,000 feet?.