Can You Use Hotspot On a Plane?

One of the many features that your phone has is the ability to create a mobile hotspot.

The hotspot feature allows you to effortlessly share your phone’s cellular internet connection with other devices.

A hotspot is valuable if you need Wi-Fi to connect to other devices, like laptops and iPads, while traveling.

But, can I use your phone’s hotspot feature on a plane?

Key Points

  • According to FCC (Federal Communications Commission) rules, you cannot create a hotspot on the plane since the hotspot requires a cellular data connection.
  • FCC rules state that passengers must enable Aeroplane (flight) mode throughout their flight.
  • You can still access the internet if the airplane has an inflight Wi-Fi system.
  • The inflight Wi-Fi might not be free, depending on the airline.
  • What you can do with inflight Wi-Fi depends on the bandwidth. But, you should be able to do basic things such as sending emails, tweets, and lite browsing.
  • In-flight Wi-Fi will limit video streaming, app downloads, and other data-intensive activities.

In this article, I dig into the question — “Can you use a hotspot on a plane?.”

First, let’s start by asking whether we can use a phone at all.

Can I use my phone on a plane?

Yes, you can use your phone to receive data (email, messenger, etc.) on a plane, provided it is in Aeroplane mode, and the Wi-Fi is enabled and connected to the Airline’s inflight Wi-Fi system.

aeroplane mode
Aeroplane mode with Wi-Fi enabled

Note, since Aeroplane mode is enabled, you will not be able to use your phone’s cellular connection, so you will not be able to make calls and receive SMS.

Remember, a solid cellular network connection is required to create a hotspot. Aside from being against aviation regulations, no cellular network phone signals are available inside a plane once in the air.

can you use hotspot on a plane
Hotspot and Aeroplane Mode

Nonetheless, many Airlines now offer free and paid inflight Wi-Fi connections, to which you can connect your phone’s Wi-Fi.

However, remember to keep the phone in Aeroplane mode.

With your phone connected to the inflight Wi-Fi, you will be able to do basic things such as sending emails, tweets, and lite browsing.

Air New Zealand Inflight Wi-Fi Options

The plane receives a signal from a unique beam cell or satellite, enabling it to employ some networking services and offer onboard Wi-Fi to passengers.

By FCC law, the use of cell phones is prohibited, and you are not allowed to utilize cellular features while flying.

These rules are designed to prevent mobile phone towers from becoming quickly locked into large numbers of moving cell phones and avoid interfering with the plane’s instruments.

Can I bring a wireless router on a plane?

Most people are unsure if bringing a wireless router on a flight is safe.

The answer is that you can bring it, but like your phone, you won’t be able to create a hotspot using the device’s cellular connection.

Interestingly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not the Federation Aviation Administration (FAA), regulates the use of any such functionality.

FCC rules

The regulator revised its rules in 2013 so passengers can use personal devices for airplane communications. The FCC stated on their website that they had adopted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making that would allow airlines to allow passengers to use their mobile wireless devices, including cell phones, to text, for internet access and voice services when flying.  

However, the Washington Post reported that the FCC later reversed its decision. While announcing the decision, the chairperson stated:

“Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet,”

Ajit Pai, FCC Chairperson.

What other stakeholders think

Additionally, the Association of Flight Attendants (CWA) welcomed the reversal of the decision. A spokesperson of the association said this in support of the turnaround:

“The FCC is making the right decision not to pursue lifting the ban on in-flight calls,” – said Taylor Garland, CWA spokesperson.

Nonetheless, technological advances make it possible for users to access cellular networks in the air. Drones, communication satellites, and lasers have been proposed as technologies airlines can use to help with flight Wi-Fi connectivity.

So, how can you get data during your flights?

As was previously indicated, many airlines offer the option of using inflight Wi-Fi.

In addition, purchasing and using hubs is a common way to access Wi-Fi while on your flights.

These are all highly secure methods for using Wi-Fi on a lengthy flight.

Do Verizon hotspots work on airplanes?

Technically, the MiFi (a compact, mobile router that connects to your laptop or computer wherever you are using Bluetooth) will work only as a Local Area Network but not as a device with an internet connection.

The device can be set up as a small portable inflight router that allows you to communicate across your devices like your phone and laptop. Therefore, like the hotspot, don’t expect it to give you an internet connection once the plane is in the air.

It can only work when the plane is on the ground.

Once the plane is in the air, it will be flying too high and fast to search for and lock a reliable signal.

Ground stations usually transmit terrestrial distance; sending signals towards the sky wastes transmission energy.

Internet access is only through the inflight Wi-Fi.

How to get internet on a plane without Wi-Fi

It is illegal to connect devices to the internet from a plane without using a Wi-Fi system offered by the airline.

Although a satellite phone might work, the airplane facility reception will be poor. Additionally, using a satellite phone when a commercial aircraft is in flight is illegal.

The moment the plane takes off, your mobile device loses its signal. After takeoff, until 10,000 feet, the mobile hardly functions. After that, Wi-Fi facility support is necessary for mobile internet use in flight.

How to get Wi-Fi on a plane

You can enable Wi-Fi on your phone anytime, even in Aeroplane (flight) Mode. But you’ll only access the inflight network when an announcement is made that the service is active.

Once the announcement is made, open a Web browser window or navigate to the device’s network settings, you can search for an available flight Wi-Fi network, usually with the airline name or a provider like Gogo.



Since Wi-Fi signals cannot travel much more than 100 feet in the air, the only place to connect to the internet once you are in the air is from the plane itself.

Therefore, if the airline doesn’t offer a Wi-Fi connection on board, you cannot connect to the internet.

Do hotspots work internationally?

Yes, your hotspot can work internationally, as long as the mobile data network exists in that region. However, you should be ready to incur extra costs.

You’ll also need to subscribe to an ISP that offers international data roaming services. Moreover, the bandwidth might be limited depending on the country.

Can you email on a plane?

Email on a plane will depend on what the airline offers.

For some airlines, your fare includes offers such as free Wi-Fi texting and onboard Wi-Fi on its menu.

If the bandwidth on the flight allows, you can email, tweet, and update your Facebook status. Remember, you can connect other devices such as laptops and tablets to the inflight network.

Final thoughts

The airline’s rules are there to ensure your safety.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to adhere to them. For example, always enable Aeroplane (flight) mode on your phone before taking off.

When you are informed that the Wi-Fi system is active, enable Wi-Fi on your device (phone, laptop, or tablet) for internet access.

However, that may soon change as technology continues to advance. In the foreseeable future, you’ll be able to use your phone’s internet as you travel on the plane.

Can you use a hotspot on a plane? You now know the answer to this question!

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