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Use of mobile phones on aircraft

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Use of mobile phones on aircraft

Consumers will soon be able to use their mobile phones safely on board planes. The Commission is harmonising the technical rules for the safe use of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services). The opening up of European air space to MCA services also depends on the coordination of the national measures for granting licences for the use of one of the first true pan-European telecommunication services.


Commission Decision 2008/294/EC of 7 April 2008 on harmonised conditions of spectrum use for the operation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) in the Community


The mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) offer passengers the opportunity to use their mobile phones on board to make calls and send and receive messages while they are flying over Europe.

The general framework for the use of mobile phones on aircraft depends on two factors:

The airline will be able to apply in the country in which it is registered for a mobile telephony licence valid for the European Union (EU) as a whole. In this way, a plane registered in Spain, when flying over the Czech Republic, for example, will be able to offer MCA services to passengers without additional licence formalities.

This Decision does not cover either the commercial aspects, such as the charges for the use of MCA services, or the terms and conditions of use. It is for the airlines and mobile telephony operators to establish the conditions necessary on board for those wishing to use the MCA services not to disturb the other passengers.

Some airlines are considering introducing this type of service during 2008. No later than six months after the entry into force of this Decision and the corresponding Recommendation, Member States should be able to authorise provision of MCA services in aircraft registered within their jurisdiction


Passengers’ telephones are linked to an on-board cellular network (aircraft base transceiver station), which in turn is in communication with the Earth by satellite, to avoid the phones connecting to the mobile networks of the countries flown over and impeding the normal operation of the terrestrial mobile networks.

This arrangement also enables the transmit power to be kept at a fairly low level to ensure the safety of the on-board systems.


The MCA services charges are not limited by the roaming rates, which depend exclusively on the terrestrial network. The service providers will set the charges for the MCA services. The Commission will nevertheless keep a close eye on the level and transparency of the prices invoiced to consumers.


The provision of MCA services goes hand in hand with the fundamental observance of air safety requirements. The application of common rules in the field of the safety of civilian aviation will be guaranteed by an airworthiness certificate valid for the whole of the EU. This certification is issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The use of mobile phones on aircraft will be prohibited during take-off and landing and will be accessible only when the aircraft reaches cruising speed.


Demand for pan-European services is increasing with the technological and economic development of the EU. The Commission already supports the use of mobile services by satellite in the frequency band 2 GHz (EN).

The Commission proposed revising the European framework for electronic communications in 2007 to be in step with these developments and to allow the launch of transnational services of this kind throughout the EU.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2008/294/EC [adoption: co-decision COD/2000/0183]



OJ L 98 of 10.4.2008


Commission Recommendation 2008/295/EC of 7 April 2008 on authorisation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) in the European Community [Official Journal L 98 of 10.4.2008] This Recommendation goes hand in hand with the Decision on harmonised conditions of spectrum use for the operation of MCA services. It aims to coordinate national authorisation conditions for the provision of MCA services and promotes mutual recognition of national authorisations.

Last updated: 05.06.2008