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What Happens If You Don’t Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode on A Flight?

By John Walton, Lonely Planet Writer
January 27, 2022
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You hear the warning every time you fly: Please set all devices to airplane mode. But what happens if you don't?

It’s not that long ago that airlines stopped telling passengers to keep their mobile phones, tablets, e-readers and other devices turned off throughout the flight. Remember the time in 2011 when Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines plane after becoming disruptive when a flight attendant told him to stop playing Words with Friends? Airlines take this stuff seriously for a reason.

Why do we have to put our phones on flight mode?

We’re asked to turn our devices off or to flight mode because of electromagnetic interference from phones, tablets, e-readers, electronic headsets, and more. Since some planes were built before these became a thing, it took a while for the industry to make sure it was entirely safe to use them.

These days, you’ll even see iPads and other tablets in the flight deck, which pilots use to store paperwork instead of lugging around big bags with actual paper in. You’ll see flight attendants using tablets and big phones too, either instead of or in addition to those reams and reams of dot-matrix printed paperwork. All those devices have been tested extensively to make sure there’s no interference.

But that hasn’t always been the case! In fact, back in 2011, some parts within specific models of flight deck screen on certain Boeing 737 aircraft proved to be susceptible to interference. How’d we find out that specific combination of planes and monitors — and fix it? During the rigorous testing process to enable airlines to offer inflight internet, that’s how. Part of that testing process is creating enough electromagnetic interference to represent an entire cabin full of devices of a variety of sizes, including some that are malfunctioning. Pretty much every airliner-equipment combo operated by a major international airline has now been tested.

What happens if I don't put my phone on airplane mode?

For years, safety regulators, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and everyone else in the industry has known that there are dozens of devices left out of airplane mode on every flight. In a way, the fact that planes haven’t fallen out of the sky willy-nilly because someone left their Kindle on is the best demonstration that, for the most part, most devices don’t affect most planes.

But most isn’t good enough for aviation. Some folks don’t know that their Kindle even has 3G, or that the Bluetooth on their watch/headphones/other device counts as needing to be in airplane mode. Some forget that they’ve packed one of those devices in the overhead bin. Some even blatantly ignore the rules, assuming that their vital email on that BlackBerry isn’t going to make their plane start to plummet. And it probably isn’t.

Here’s the thing: aviation doesn’t work on probablys. One of the reasons why aviation is safer than getting in your car, crossing the street, or even just staying at home (more people are casualties of toilet-related incidents than aviation accidents!) is that airlines and their regulators work with an abundance of caution.

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Travel Tips

9 TSA Rules You Might Be Breaking

With the Transportation Security Administration’s restrictions around the boarding process constantly shifting (see: those Star Wars-themed Coca-Cola bottles that had Disney-goers in an uproar), even the most jaded frequent flier can be caught unaware. Here are some scenarios you should have on your radar before your next departure. 1. You went on a spice-buying spree and packed your finds in your carry-on For the past year, the TSA has required additional screening for any powder-based substances greater than 350 ml (or about how much would fit in a soda can). They don’t have to be packed in your checked luggage, but you will need to allow time for additional screening—and depending on how savvy your airport staff is, that could take a while. A 16-ounce bag of sea salt, for example, proved problematic for one of our writers returning from Sicily, triggering the scanners and stumping the agents at every port of call. To alleviate the hassle, pull them out with your electronics at security or consider stashing them in your checked baggage. 2. You stopped at the dispensary to refill your prescription, and now you’re carrying too much medical marijuana Speaking of stashes: Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, plus D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, but that doesn’t mean it’s cleared to fly cross-country. Because the plant remains illegal under federal law, only FDA-approved goods or those that contain no more than 0.3% THC when weighed dry are allowed, either in carry-on or checked bags. (The rules apply to some CBD products as well, so tread carefully.) Though the TSA screens for security, not specifically for drugs, if an officer sees that you’re holding, they’ll call in the authorities. To avoid the issue altogether, some airports have installed cannabis disposal bins – look for them in locations like Las Vegas, Toronto, and Aspen, Colorado. 3. Your liquids are out of sight, out of mind Sure, you remembered to take out your toiletries and empty your water bottle, but what about your roll-on deodorant, heating pad, or glow sticks? The former and the latter are fine in your carry-on as long as they’re less than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters, but gel-based items like heating pads and candles have to go in your checked bags. (As with any liquids, gel ice packs are fine as long as they’re completely frozen – if they’re at all melted or slushy, they have to meet the 3-1-1 requirement, unless they’re medically necessary.) On the off chance you’re transporting a Magic 8 ball, stick with your checked baggage there too. As the TSA’s reference page puts it, “For Carry-on bags: We asked the Magic 8 Ball and it told us…Outlook not so good! For Checked bags: We asked the Magic 8 Ball and it told us…It is certain!” 4. You snapped a picture of something you shouldn’t have Shooting photo or video isn’t completely verboten at security checkpoints, but the regulations around it are pretty hazy. The TSA says that you’re fine as long as you don’t reveal sensitive information, shoot equipment monitors that aren’t in public view, or interfere with the screening process in any way—including but “not limited to holding a recording device up to the face of a TSA officer so that the officer is unable to see or move, refusing to assume the proper stance during screening, blocking the movement of others through the checkpoint or refusing to submit a recording device for screening.” It’s easy to see how an innocent action could be interpreted as interference, so you’re probably better off skipping the snapshots, just to be on the safe side. 5. You’ve lost a loved one, and you’re traveling with their ashes Going “Code Grandma,” or simply taking a loved one to their final resting place? Some airlines might ban cremated remains from checked bags, but somewhat shockingly, the TSA as a whole has no issue with passengers bringing cremated remains on board, as long as they’re transported in a vessel that allows the scanners to see what’s inside. (Wood and plastic are fine, metals like tin or stainless steel, not so much.) If the officers can’t make out what’s in the container, it won’t be allowed. Per the site, “Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.” 6. You’re heading for the big game, or Comic-Con, or a killer Halloween party – and you’ve dressed up to get in the mood Though it’s not strictly prohibited, dressing in costume, painting your face, or altering your appearance in any significant fashion could result in additional screening. TSA agents need to be able to identify you to wave you through the checkpoints, so save the makeup or the mask for a quick restroom change after you’ve cleared security or once you’ve landed at your destination. 7. Your smart luggage was grabbed for the dreaded gate check, and you forgot to pop out the battery Most rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries – lithium, cell phone, laptop, and external batteries, plus power banks and portable rechargers – are fine in the cabin, but they become a problem when they’re stored under the plane. To avoid an unpleasant surprise, check the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidelines before you head for the airport. 8. You won a goldfish at the carnival, and you want to take him home It should go without saying, but live fish should not be relegated to the cargo hold. As one of few exceptions to the notorious 3-1-1 rule, live fish in water – no matter the amount – can go in your carry-on, as long as they’re in a transparent container and pass muster with the TSA officer. 9. You let the holiday spirit take over Air travel during the holiday season is bad enough – don’t make it any harder than it has to be. Your carefully wrapped gifts can trigger an alarm, so use bags and boxes instead of wrapping paper and tape whenever possible. Even the most minor trinkets can cause trouble: Snow globes bigger than a tennis ball likely violate the 3-1-1 liquids rule, and Christmas crackers aren’t allowed at all, either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Foodwise, fruitcake is fine, but if you’re smuggling gravy across state lines, be sure to mix it with your mashed potatoes if you don’t want it confiscated by security – a lesson model, presenter and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen learned on the fly this summer.

Travel Tips

8 Common Travel Scams (and How to Avoid Them)

Even experienced travelers can become victims of crooks that prey on tourists – and we’re not just talking about pickpockets. Perpetrators use a number of ploys to dupe tourists. The good news? There are steps you can take to avoid these eight common travel scams and swindles. Fake booking websites Fraud can occur before you even pack your bags. Fake travel reservation websites are common culprits. In fact, a whopping 15 million online hotel reservations are made on bogus third-party sites every year, the American Hotel & Lodging Association reports. How to avoid it: The easiest way to protect yourself is by going to the official website of the hotel, airline, or rental car agency to book reservations. If you’re considering using a third-party booking website, though, look up the business on the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints lodged against the company for fraud. Also, make sure the booking site’s URL starts with https:// – this ensures it’s a secure website. The broken taxi meter Sadly, some taxi drivers take advantage of tourists by telling them that their meter is broken and then charge them significantly more money than the fare should have cost. How to avoid it: If a taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, get out and opt for another driver. Don’t have another taxi to choose from? Negotiate the rate ahead of time. Phony Wi-Fi hotspots Connecting your computer, smartphone, or other electric device to an unsecured Wi-Fi network can put your personal data at risk, since the perpetrator can gain access to what’s on your device, including sensitive information like credit card account numbers. How to avoid it: Instead of using public Wi-Fi, create a mobile hotspot from your smartphone. This entails sharing your phone’s mobile data connection wirelessly with the other device you’re using. If you don’t have a large or unlimited data plan, though, creating a mobile hotspot may not be a financially feasible option. If you must use a public Wi-Fi connection, use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, which is “a private network that only you can access, hiding your important data from potential hackers,” says Hailey Benton of Global Travel Academy. Your hotel accommodation or attraction is "closed" We’re not trying to give taxi drivers a bad rap – most cabdrivers are honest providers – but some drivers mislead travelers by telling them that their desired hotel or attraction is closed, even though it’s open. The driver will then try to pressure you to stay at a different hotel or visit a different attraction, which offers the driver a kickback for bringing the company business. How to avoid it: This one is pretty simple: if a cabbie tells you that your hotel or attraction is closed, call directly to see whether it’s truly open or closed. Car trouble Renting a car? You need to have your guard up. A fraudster may tell you to pull over because there’s a problem with your vehicle, like a broken taillight or a flat tire. Instead of inspecting your car, the person robs you at gun- or knife-point. How to avoid it: Don’t pull over. If there’s a genuine problem, you’ll likely hear a noise or see an emergency light pop on, at which point you should find a repair shop. The bag slash A purse may seem like a good place to store cash and other valuables. However, crooks target tourists by riding on a bicycle past the person while slicing the strap of a bag, then pedaling away with its contents. How to avoid it: Though some people think they look silly, storing your valuables – money, passport, and credit cards – in a money belt that you tuck into your pants is the safest way to stroll the streets. The shell game It’s an age-old scam: a game operator on the street places a ball under one of three shells or cups, shuffles them around, and you place a bet on where you think the ball is. The trick? Associates acting as tourists guess correctly, leading you to think you can win. The perpetrator has removed the ball using sleight of hand, or you win and the person pays you with counterfeit money. How to avoid it: Don’t play. Don’t even stop to watch – you could get pickpocketed by a conspirator while you’re distracted by the game. The souvenir switcheroo You stop at a stall to buy a keepsake. You find the item you want to purchase and pay the vendor, who then goes to wrap up your purchase. When you get home, though, you unwrap your souvenir to discover it’s not the item you purchased – it’s actually a cheaper trinket. How to avoid it: Don’t buy souvenirs on the street. Instead, go to a brick-and-mortar store that can be held accountable.

Travel Tips

21 Ways You Could Get into Trouble as a Tourist in Italy

It can be hard to stay afloat of Italy's wave of bans on visitor-related misbehavior. From snacking on the street in Florence to riding a bike in Venice's city center, there are specific everyday activities that could see you slapped with a fine of up to €500 ($550) or daspo (temporary ban). Italian authorities have introduced a slew of new rules aimed at curbing unacceptable behavior, many of which are in response to issues with overtourism. Some have been introduced with a zero-tolerance approach. In June, a Canadian tourist was fined €250 ($278) for sunbathing in her bikini in Venice's Giardini Papadopoli. While in July, two German tourists were fined €950 ($1058) and immediately asked to leave the city after they were found making coffee on a portable stove beneath the historic Rialto Bridge. Officials confirmed that this was the 40th time since May that visitors have been ordered to leave town for breaching the rules. "Venice must be respected," mayor Luigi Brugnaro said at the time, "and bad-mannered people who think they can come here and do what they want must understand that, thanks to local police, they will be caught, punished and expelled." It's not just Venice taking firm action. Two French tourists were caught allegedly taking sand from a beach in Sardinia this month and could face up to six years in prison. And in Rome, police have been encouraging lounging tourists to move from the Spanish Steps as sitting on them is now subject to a fine of about €400 ($450). At first glance, the rules may seem harsh but residents in Italy are really starting to feel the strain of overtourism. Many have had enough of visitors treating their cities like theme parks. You obviously don't want to be that person who could cause offense (or worse, commit an offense). Simply respecting Italy and its citizens should be enough to keep you out of trouble but even the most well-intentioned visitor might slip up from time to time. With that in mind, here's a quick brief at what not to do on your next visit to Italy: 1. Purchase unauthorized tours from touts in any city. 2. Purchase "skip-the-line" tours outside historic monuments in Rome such as the Vatican. 3. Join organized pub crawls in Rome. 4. Eat or drink at famous sites in any city, like the Spanish Steps. 5. Sit or lay down in front of shops, historic monuments and bridges. You'll more than likely be moved on. 6. Eat on the streets of Florence's historic center – Via de' Neri, Piazzale degli Uffizi, Piazza del Grano and Via della Ninna – from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 10pm daily. 7. Drag pushchairs or wheeled suitcases up the Spanish Steps in Rome. 8. Jump into fountains or otherwise damage or climb on them. 9. Set up picnics in public spaces or pause too long on bridges in Venice. 10. Ride bikes in Venice city center. 11. Drink alcohol on the street between 8pm and 8am in Venice. 12. Busk on public transport in Rome. 13. Attach love locks to bridges in Rome and Venice. 14. Take part in group celebrations such as hen and stag parties outdoors during weeknights in Venice. They're only permitted outdoors during the day or on weekends. 15. Let your mouth touch the spout of Rome's public drinking fountains, known as nasoni. Instead cup your hands under the spout of place your finger under the stream to direct an arc of water to your mouth like the Romans do. 16. Drink alcohol out of glass containers on public streets, public transit and in non-enclosed green spaces in Rome after 10pm. Or drink alcohol out of any container after midnight in these spaces. 17. Dress up as a historical figure or character like a "centurion" (gladiator) in Rome and pose for photos with tourists. 18. Walk around shirtless or in your swimwear in any metropolitan area. This state of dress is strictly restricted to the beach or lido. 19. Wear sandals or flip-flops while hiking in Cinque Terre. 20. Swim in the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri. You can visit by boat but swimming in the grotto is strictly forbidden, just ask supermodel Heidi Klum who was fined €6000 ($6696) for taking a dip in the waters this summer. 21. Steal sand from the beaches of Sardinia (or any beach for that matter). You could face up to six years in prison.

Travel Tips

6 Ways to Use Google Flights to Save Money on Airfare

Booking airfare is a common cause of buyer’s remorse. You diligently research the best fares, track them with price alerts, and finally book — only to see the price drop unexpectedly just before takeoff. Google Flights, part of the search engine giant’s new raft of travel-savvy features, aims to prevent that buyer’s remorse. It’s so sure of its tracking prowess that it’s offering a price guarantee. Here are the details: When Google Flights’ algorithms confidently identify the lowest available price, it tags the fare. After you book, Google Flights continues to monitor the fare. If the cost drops before take-off, it will refund you the difference. Sound too good to be true? Well, keep in mind it’s a limited-time offer available for select flights booked through September 2, 2019. Travel must be completed by November 24, 2019. Finally, the difference in price must be greater than $5 and less than $500. But even after this price guarantee ends, Google Flights still has several features and tools that can help you get the most for your money. Here’s how. Use the Tips section to know when you’re getting a good deal Google Flights uses more than 300 partners including airlines and other travel aggregators to display offers. It automatically sorts results by the best price, but the Tips section provides further insights. It contains notes that let you know whether you’re getting a good deal. Tips may note that prices are unlikely to drop before you book, that prices are less than usual, or prices are likely to increase. Google develops these tips after analyzing price trends of past flights and similar trips. Use the Explore Destinations feature Still trying to decide where you want to go? Let the Explore Destinations feature be your budget-friendly travel agent. It allows you to select your departure city, the proposed length of your trip, and the month in which you want to travel, then delivers destinations with the lowest airfares. For example, if you’re planning a one-week trip in November, but aren’t sure of your destination, you may opt for New York over Washington, DC, when you discover you’ll save $100 on the airfare alone. Be flexible with your dates If you have a fixed destination in mind, but can be flexible with your travel dates, Google Flights can deliver savings. Once you’ve input your destination and proposed itinerary dates, click on the Date Grid. This reveals how airfare prices fluctuate on the dates surrounding your proposed departure and return. Similarly, the Price Graph lets you explore how fares vary by month or week, which can help you identify the best times to travel that route. Experiment with your route Sometimes our travel plans take us to destinations that can be reached via multiple airports. If that’s the case with your trip, use the Airports feature. For example, if you’re headed to Tupelo, Mississippi, you might opt to fly into Birmingham, Alabama, or Nashville, Tennessee. Let your pocketbook pick. Filter by bag fees When looking at airplane fares, it’s easy to forget the other fees we may encounter. Baggage fees are chief among them. If you already know whether you’ll be checking a bag or bringing one onboard, Google Flights can show you flight prices that include any associated fees. Turning on this filter doesn’t remove any flights from results. Instead, it updates prices so you can get a true picture of your total trip cost. Set Fare Alerts Even though Google Flights offers several convenient features to search for the best price within its platform, you may not want to turn obsessive fare checking into a hobby. In that case, set up a Fare Alert. Just enter your travel details, including destination and dates, and click the Track Prices toggle. Google Flights will keep tabs on price fluctuations and send you an email notifying you of price changes. The only drawback to Google Flights may be that it doesn’t index all flights. For example, Google Flights doesn’t publish prices from Southwest Airlines. If a route is available that meets your needs, it will display that a flight is available but will redirect you to the airline’s website for site for further details. However, overall, Google Flights is fast becoming a top airfare search and research tool.

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