Use Airplane Mode with Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Enabled on an iPhone or iPad

May 24, 2012 - 6 Comments

Airplane mode with Wi-Fi turned on

If you want to use an iPhone or iPad during a plane flight, you’re supposed to turn Airplane mode on to disable the built-in wireless communication aspects of the device. Airplane mode disables cellular and 3G/4g connectivity, GPS, wi-fi, and Bluetooth capabilities, but how are you supposed to use inflight wi-fi service if everything is turned off? The solution is to enable Airplane mode as usual, but then manually turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth separately on the iOS device:

  • Launch Settings and flip “Airplane Mode” to “ON”
  • Tap on “Wi-Fi” and flip the switch to “ON”, join the wireless network as usual
  • For Bluetooth use, within Settings tap on “General” and then tap “Bluetooth” to enable separately

Either choice will not reenable the cellular modem or connection, typically keeping you within the realm of acceptable behavior for most flights. You’ll probably want to check with the specific airline before doing this, but chances are if they offer inflight wireless service then it’s acceptable behavior.

Outside of flying, using Airplane mode but turning on wi-fi is an easy way to temporarily turn an iPhone into an iPod touch, letting you use wifi networks but avoid any potentially expensive voice or data roaming charges.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Seamus says:

    Can you use an iPhone as a wifi hotspot for other devices while on airplane mode, such as on a cruise ship when the wifi access is limited to one device?

  2. Glenn says:

    The use of Bluetooth during flight is strictly prohibited and if caught could subject the user to a $2000 fine. Even though it is weak it is still a transmitter, the use of which is still not allowed even for a wireless keyboard or headset.

    If you need confirmation of this, check the inflight magazine to read all the details. This is where the airline will point to for their liability disclaimer if you are fined by the FAA.

    The FAA is starting to collect the information and fines have been levied for various prohibited inflight electronics violations. Ask the guy who recently posted a picture on the internet taken with his iPad immediately after take off – it was his most expensive picture ever.

  3. Richard says:

    Wow – I didn’t know this, what a great piece of information, I’ll definitely be using this when I travel overseas later this year, thanks guys

  4. curly says:

    Wait, how do you set up an iPhone as an iPod touch? That would be a good topic to cover because I have an old 3GS laying around that currently does nothing!

  5. janey says:

    This is true, and I’m doing this overseas. Unfortunately, you still get some annoying messages reminding you about Airplane Mode that you cannot disable.

    I use my iPhone like an iPod Touch, and iMessage/etc still works just fine. On occasion I have to turn it off and back on again.. it’s as if the phone gets a little confused if it’s off a wifi network for a while. No big deal, though.

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