Using Wi-Fi while in Airplane Mode

Q: In reference to your article Using FaceTime while abroad, I interpreted your suggestion to say that the web could still be accessed if Wi-Fi is ON and Airplane Mode is also ON; basically that just phone calling and cellular data roaming would be affected. When I put my iPhone 5 into Airplane Mode, and turn ON my Wi-Fi, I am unable to search the web. I do see that I am connected to a Wi-Fi network, but can only use Google, etc, after I turn Airplane Mode OFF. What am I doing wrong?

– Cindy

Using Wi-Fi while in Airplane Mode

A: You should definitely be able to use a Wi-Fi network with Airplane Mode on, although you’ll need to go in and toggle Wi-Fi back on manually after enabling Airplane Mode, since this disables Wi-Fi by default when switched on.

After doing this, you should see the Wi-Fi symbol up in the status bar beside the Airplane Mode symbol, as shown above.

If this still isn’t working the most likely problem here is that whichever Wi-Fi network you’re connected to is experiencing problems, and you would need to troubleshoot this in the same way as for connecting to any Wi-Fi network, whether you’re in Airplane Mode or not.

It is entirely possible for your iPhone to access a Wi-Fi network that can’t actually connect to the Internet for any one of several reasons. For example, if you’re on your home network and your Internet connection is down, your iPhone will often still establish a Wi-Fi connection to your home router, but there will be no path from there to the Internet. Further, many Wi-Fi hotspots found in places like cafes, schools, and libraries may require you to authenticate in some way before you can access the Internet, often in the form of visiting a specific web page and signing in or clicking a button to agree to some terms of use.

The first thing to check in this case is whether you’re actually connected to the correct Wi-Fi network after enabling Airplane Mode.

Your iPhone will remember previous networks that it has been connected to based on their names; since many users leave their Wi-Fi routers set to a default name, so you may end up with common names like “default” or “linksys” remembered by your iPhone. In this case, your iPhone will attempt to connect to any Wi-Fi network in range with that name, regardless of whether it’s the network you want or whether it will work for you or not.

You can remove any unwanted networks you may be automatically connecting to by tapping on the blue arrow beside the network name in Settings, Wi-Fi, and then tapping the “Forget this Network” button at the very top of the screen.


Using Wi-Fi while in Airplane Mode

This will remove the network name from the list of remembered networks. If you see the correct Wi-Fi network name here, you can simply tap on it to attempt to connect to that network and then see if you can get a successful Internet connection.