What Happens When Someone Calls You on Airplane Mode?

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Setting your phone to “Airplane Mode” gives you a break from calls and texts – ideal for when you need to focus or relax! It’s an invaluable feature.

Airplane mode disables Bluetooth signals, cell tower transmissions (cellular data) and Wi-Fi connectivity on a phone, as well as any calls you receive while in airplane mode – callers will hear a busy tone or message instead.

1. You hear a busy tone

Putting your phone into airplane mode disables Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular network service. Any calls received while in this mode will go straight to voicemail; once Airplane Mode has been disabled and connected back up with cellular data connection again you will see this call appear in your call log and text messages won’t arrive until this connection is reestablished.

Some people set their phones to airplane mode to avoid being interrupted by calls and notifications; others do it for safety while traveling by plane or car. It is essential to know what will happen if someone calls you when your phone is set on airplane mode.

Airplane mode on an iPhone temporarily blocks all incoming calls and texts; however, you can still use popular applications like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype. If you want to send or receive text messages while using airplane mode on your iPhone over Wi-Fi iMessage is the way to do it – however it should be remembered that messages may not reach their recipients as soon as expected during an upcoming flight if put into airplane mode midflight.

Do not disturb mode will temporarily silence incoming call ringtones to protect you from being disturbed during sleep by calls or alarms that might otherwise disturb you, but callers will still be able to hear voicemail messages (depending on their carrier, they might hear a busy tone or recording telling them you’re unavailable).

Sometimes when trying to call an iPhone user, a busy signal appears. This could be because their device is set into airplane mode or there is no cellular data available – either way it could lead to no success reaching them.

When calling someone on their iPhone while in airplane mode, they might not answer or give an unhelpful scripted response, such as, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take your call right now”. In most cases, their voicemail will take over; otherwise you might leave them a message through email or Facebook Messenger instead.

2. You hear a message

Airplane mode disables all connections to and from your phone – effectively taking it “off the grid”. Flight crew advise their passengers to switch their phones into airplane mode during takeoff and landing flights as this prevents radio interference during their flight journey.

When someone contacts your device while it is in airplane mode, they will hear a message stating that your phone is unavailable or out of service and can leave voicemail; you will then receive this once your device has exited airplane mode and connected with its cellular network again.

Although airplane mode does limit cellular network services (phone calls, SMS text messages and mobile data), it doesn’t prevent you from manually activating Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your iPhone while it is in airplane mode. As a result, you can still utilize these functions while it is set to airplane mode if they’re manually enabled.

Succession recently showed us a scene when nearly all members of a corporate jet’s board put their phones into airplane mode during takeoff. This can happen in real life; therefore, it’s essential to understand what happens if your phone goes into airplane mode.

People may still attempt to send you texts while your phone is in airplane mode; however, the messages won’t reach you until you disable airplane mode and regain cellular connection. Some cellular providers may send notifications stating your message was not delivered successfully.

If your phone does receive a text while it’s in airplane mode, the message will show up when you disable airplane mode and reconnect to cellular network. However, if a call goes missed without receiving an alert or appearing in your call log.

Airplane mode works to stop calls coming in by disabling its cellular connection and sending any attempts directly to voicemail if someone attempts to call while your phone is in this mode, similar to Do Not Disturb mode which silences incoming calls but doesn’t disable cellular connectivity; callers will still be able to leave you messages in voicemail which you can view once airplane mode has been turned off and you reconnect to either your iCloud or iTunes account.

3. You hear a voicemail

People use airplane mode for various reasons. It could be to conserve battery life or simply take a break from calls and notifications; some even use it while flying so call signals won’t interfere with navigation systems. Whatever their motivation may be, when someone calls you while your phone is set on airplane mode they will hear a busy tone or message stating they cannot contact the individual in question.

Callers won’t know that your phone is set on airplane mode; while this may be frustrating for them, it can actually help protect both safety and privacy concerns if traveling alone, for example. Strangers won’t see your device is off so as not to disturb your trip or cause unnecessary distraction.

As well, parents often employ airplane mode on their phones so that their children won’t become distracted from conversations or meals while on an airplane or restaurant trip, giving them more focus to enjoy new and exciting experiences and learning about things outside their comfort zones. Although not an ideal solution, using airplane mode may reduce screen time for both you and your kids while providing them with some quality alone time.

Your phone’s airplane mode won’t prevent text messaging or apps that don’t use cellular data from functioning normally; however, any calls made through them won’t go through and will instead go directly to voicemail; there won’t be a notification of missed calls until after airplane mode has been disabled; you will only see them in your call log after taking steps to disable airplane mode again.

Noticing this also, while not ideal, airplane mode prevents notifications from apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Telegram from reaching your device while in flight – an effective way of safeguarding privacy while minimising interruptions while on an airplane or at a restaurant.

4. You hear a scripted response

Airplane mode is a feature on smartphones that temporarily disarms all wireless communication functions, including phone calls, texts messages and data services. When activated it stops all these services working as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services being disabled to avoid interference with aircraft systems.

When someone calls when your device is in airplane mode, they’ll hear a busy tone or an automated message telling them you are unavailable. Depending on your carrier, callers may even have the opportunity to leave a message; alternatively, in some instances a scripted response may explain that your device is currently set into flight mode and to call back later.

On occasion, your phone may still receive texts even while it is set to airplane mode if you use services that do not rely on cell network connectivity like iMessage and WhatsApp. Simply turn off airplane mode while using these services for optimal delivery of texts.

Similar logic applies for calls from Apple users who utilize iMessage; your iPhone may indicate you missed an incoming call but the message will actually remain stored on Apple’s servers until you switch off aircraft mode and reconnect to cellular network.

An oft-asked question on an iPhone is if and when a person can receive calls and texts while in airplane mode. The answer to this is yes, provided they are connected to a WiFi network – this way if someone uses iMessage then their call or text will come through as normal; otherwise it won’t. Using non-WiFi compatible cellular service or an Android device prevents calls/texts from going through.

Airplane mode can be an invaluable way to keep yourself off of your smartphone when traveling or on a flight, but it is important to understand its operation so you can plan accordingly should the need arise.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.