I have an iPad Air 2. It only has Wi-Fi capability and I keep it in airplane mode as I don't want it linking to my iPhone or other Apple accounts and disrupting any in progress memo recordings.

Well, the iPad has been in airplane mode for the last 1 week. This morning I saw on my iPhone that an update was available so I went ahead with that update. When I accessed my iPad to update and went into settings to turn off airplane mode I noticed that it had already detected that an update was available!

How is that even possible when it had been in airplane mode all week?

  • Firstly, welcome to Ask Different! :) I hope you come to find this site has a lot to offer! In case you haven't already, it's worth taking the time to read the tour. All the best with your question.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


By default Airplane mode disables all wireless frequencies on your device so that you can comply with airline regulations. This means that any radio frequencies relating to cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are disabled.

However, when your device is in Airplane mode, it is actually possible to manually enable Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth. And, if you do, the next time you're in Airplane mode these settings remain.

So, the most likely answer is that at some point you activated Wi-Fi during Airplane mode (either intentionally or by accident) and that ever since your iPad has sill been connected via Wi-Fi whenever you've activated Airplane mode.

As per Apple:

Use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in Airplane Mode

If the airline allows it, you can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while in Airplane mode. You just need to turn them on separately. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with Control Center. Open Control Center from the Home screen and tap [the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon]. You can also go to Settings > Wi-Fi or Settings > Bluetooth. To use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your Apple Watch, just turn off Airplane Mode.

If you turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth while you're in Airplane mode, they will be on the next time you use Airplane mode, unless you turn them off while in Airplane mode.

Source: Use Airplane Mode on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple Watch, Apple. [Bold emphasis mine, words in italics added for clarification]

The following screenshot is from an iPad in Airplane Mode and connected to Wi-Fi at the same time:

enter image description here

Related reading

  • The timeline is as follows. For the last 1 week IPAD has been in Air Plane Mode. I am 100% certain of this. Update 12.4.1 came out day before yesterday. Any updates that show up on my Iphone I immediately apply. I updated my phone and went to IPad. Going into settings on the IPad I see that it is reporting an update 12.4.1 as being available and I have not even turned off Airplane mode to connect to the WiFi. How did it know that an update was available when it was never connected at the time that the update availability broadcast message went out? Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 13:35
  • @TariqMurtaza Your question was already clear (good job on that by the way), and my answer is basically saying that an iPad can be in Airplane mode and connected to Wi-Fi at the same time.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 21:51
  • 1
    I've added a screenshot to demonstrate this. Thanks @ankii for the suggestion! :)
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 22:15

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