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Why do airlines require that phones remain in airplane mode during the final taxi to the gate after landing? As far as I can tell, it does not affect the airplane or anything else negatively or at all. Is this true? If so, then what is the point in keeping the phone in airplane mode until the cabin doors open? Is it just for the sake of convention?

Thanks a lot in advance for any responses!

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  • $\begingroup$ Not all airlines require this. For example, Air New Zealand lets you turn on your phone as soon as the aircraft leaves the main runway. So, it's a matter of policy specific to your airline. $\endgroup$ – Greg Hewgill Aug 27 '15 at 1:59
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In general, they don't. U.S. airlines generally allow you to use your phones as soon as the plane lands.

Southwest:

Effective today, Southwest Customers with cell phones onboard may begin using them after the flight attendant gives permission to do so upon landing at the destination and taxi to the airport gate.

Source: Southwest Press Release from Sept 2, 2003

Delta:

Use of cellular devices prior to takeoff is not allowed per Delta policy so that flight attendants may properly prepare the cabin for departure and conduct safety demonstrations uninterrupted. Cellular devices may be used upon landing as instructed by the cabin crew.

Source: Everything You Need to Know About Using Devices on U.S. Airlines


Perhaps of interest, the rule against using cell phone during flight in the U.S. is not an FAA Federal Aviation Regulation. It is instead an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulation designed to prevent interference to the cell network as a result of thousands of phones flying around at 600 mph hitting hundreds of cell stations at once. In general, the FCC acknowledges that this rule is outdated and that this is no longer an issue for the current cell network. As such, the FCC has issued a proposal to remove this regulation. However, some airlines (including Delta and Southwest) have publicly stated that they will continue to not allow cell phone use for voice calls during flight even if it is legal, as the majority of their customers have indicated that they don't want to listen to their neighbors chatting on a cell phone for hours on end.

Delta will not allow cellular calls or internet-based voice communications onboard Delta or Delta Connection flights. Our customer research and direct feedback tell us that our frequent flyers believe voice calls in the cabin would be a disruption to the travel experience.

In fact, a clear majority of customers who responded to a 2012 survey said they felt the ability to make voice calls onboard would detract from – not enhance – their experience. Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls onboard.

-Delta CEO Richard Anderson

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  • $\begingroup$ It is so nice to hear that so many people will speak up for common courtesy, even though so few actually practice it. /rant $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Aug 27 '15 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a reason for why the phone has to remain off until finished taxiing to the gate? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Aug 27 '15 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Dopapp At least on the above listed airlines, it doesn't. The wording is a little awkward in the Southwest quote, but they mean that it's allowed after landing during the taxi to the gate. They'll usually make the announcement that cellular devices may now be used as part of their "On behalf of Southwest, welcome to <x city>..." announcement, usually right around the time the aircraft begins exiting the runway. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 27 '15 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ammPilot That does not appear to be correct. The 47 CFR 22.925 says, "Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground)." If you can find an authoritative source, though, then I'll edit the answer. $\endgroup$ – reirab Nov 3 '16 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment, @reirab. Digging further into current info, 47 CFR 22.905 specifies the channels for the cellular service governed by 47 CFR 22 to be 869-880 MHz paired with 824-835 MHz, 890-891.5/845-846.5 MHz, 880-890/835-845 MHz, and 891.5-894/846.5-849 MHz. AT&T, for example, mostly uses other bands (700, 1700/2100, and 1900 MHz), but can also use 850 MHz (both on 4G and on LTE). So, I rescind my comment, with thanks, based on the technical details (unless you can control which band your phone uses!). $\endgroup$ – ammPilot Nov 6 '16 at 3:20
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Though all systems are gone through series of electro magnetic Tests in the Lab. The mobile phone signal may contribute enough electro magnetic interference in the real world. Due to this electro magnetic interference the systems may start behaving differently and erroneously. Take off and Landing are the crucial stages of flight phases, it is always better to avoid the chances of taking risks. If 1 mobile phone can produce this, you could just imagine about the all passengers turning on their mobile phones and contribute the interference.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that cell phone use is not forbidden by FAA (in the US), but by FCC. In Europe EASA allows cell phone use. This has more to do with telco, than flight safety, but is presented to public as a safety measure. See this. An equipement that would be sensitive to 2W at 1 or 2 GHz would likely not be certified for an aircraft. The overall ban on cell phone use in flight makes sense as a regular ground cell network is not designed to connect high speed "clients". $\endgroup$ – mins Aug 27 '15 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ Note that no U.S. agency prohibits use of cell phones in a taxiing aircraft. FCC only bans it while airborne and is studying the removal of that rule. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 27 '15 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ Your answer talks about the potential danger of using a cell phone while the plane is landing. This is irrelevant to the question, which is about using cell phones while the plane is taxiing to the gate after landing. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 25 '15 at 8:03

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