Bizarre flight mistake cost one passenger $400

Sarah Carty
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer


While most of us think flying is as easy as showing your passport at the check-in desk and taking your seat, there’s a few rules that you really shouldn’t ignore.

Of course, the safety demonstration should always be listened to, but when it comes to your electronic devices, turning them on to flight mode is a necessity.

One plane passenger found out the hard way, when he racked up a $400 bill after leaving his phone in his hand luggage and not putting it on flight mode for the duration of the flight.

One plane passenger racked up a $400 bill after leaving his phone in his hand luggage and not putting it on flight mode for the duration of the flight. Photo: Getty Images

The man was flying from Ireland to the US with Irish carrier, Aer Lingus, when he put his phone away in the overhead compartment.

He told the Irish Times he couldn’t believe it when he received a bill from his phone provider, AT&T, few weeks later, for $400 (US$300).

AT&T told the publication that the bill was due to “antennas installed on the plane that operate outside an unlimited international roaming plan”.

They “automatically connect with phones that are not in flight mode and run up charges – even when the phones are not in use”.

There’s also another reason why you should always switch your phone to flight model.

According to a pilot on Quora, not putting your phone in flight mode can make a “bzzzt-bzzzt-bzzzt-bzzt-bzzt” noise in your pilot’s headphones and drain your phone’s battery really quickly.

Not putting our phones on flight mode can also interfere with the pilot’s job. Photo: Getty Images

“You may have heard that unpleasant noise from an audio system, which occasionally happens when a mobile phone is nearby,” Nikita Schmidt wrote.

“I actually hear such noise on the radio while flying. It is not safety critical, but is annoying for sure.”

While your phone’s signal is too weak to bring a plane down, it uses more power mid-air searching for a connection with each tower it flies over, and in turn, drains your phone’s battery and gives your pilot a massive headache.

Not only is it disruptive to your pilot trying to focus on flying you from A to B safely, it can interfere with your pilot receiving information from ground control.

So the next time flight attendants tell you to turn that phone on flight mode, you might just want to do it for “common courtesy.”

“By switching your phone to airplane mode you show your appreciation to the people doing their job to get you where you want to be,” the pilot says.

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