Ever wondered what would happen if you didn't switch your phone to airplane mode? Turns out, it could cost you hundreds of dollars in unexpected charges!
Switching your electronic devices to airplane mode is one of those things that are second nature to most travelers; anyone who is visibly talking or texting on their phone will be asked to turn it off (or to switch to airplane mode) by a flight attendant.
But many people resent being out of touch while they are in the air – and it's common to see people waiting to the last minute to flip that switch, and whipping their phone out the minute the wheels hit the ground to see what they missed. Some even wonder what's the worst that could happen if they didn't turn their phone to airplane mode at all... and while it's not going to make the plane drop out of the sky (thankfully), as one passenger recently found out, it might make your phone bill astronomical.
One passenger was on a flight to the US with Aer Lingus (the Irish airline) and reports that he forgot to turn his phone to airplane mode before stowing it in the overhead compartment. After returning home from his trip, he got a bill from AT&T for nearly $300. AT&T says that the charges can be applied if someone's phone is in the air – even if they aren't using it:
"Antennas installed on the plane that operate outside an unlimited international roaming plan [and] automatically connect with phones that are not in flight mode and run up charges – even when the phones are not in use."
Aer Lingus also responded to the passenger's story, confirming that they do always remind passengers to turn their phones to airplane mode, but that the charges come from the cell phone provider, not the airline.
"If a guest’s ‘Airplane Mode’ is OFF, the mobile device may connect to the in-flight roaming network and the guest will be billed by their home operator for any usage. When using a mobile phone service you are roaming as if you were abroad. It’s the home operator that sets prices and bill customers."
Of course, that's probably not much comfort for the passenger who is now facing a massive bill! The main reason for having to switch phones to airplane mode in the first place is simply to prevent even the chance of the phone's signal messing with the plane's systems – although there is no evidence that this would happen. Phones do occasionally cause a little interference with the pilots' radio, but that's about it... so the main reason to always remember to switch that phone to airplane mode seems to be to avoid a hefty bill!