Yes, Virginia, you can use your iPhone on the new WiFi-enabled airplane flights, without worrying about its cellular nature brining down the wrath of flight attendants and the FAA. A slick tip from bynkii.com solves the problem.
The great thing about the iPhone 3G is the various levels of connectivity: Edge, 3G and Wi-Fi. You're almost always able to connect. But the bad thing about iPhone on the new WiFi flights is that very connectivity. A look in Settings and the situation appears to be either-or.
Under the Settings button of the iPhone there's Airplane Mode, a control for turning off connectivity, and Wi-Fi, which lets you pick wireless networks for Internet connections. But if you're on a flight, Airplane Mode makes surfing impossible, right?
Blogger John Welch thought outside the box (or buttons):
So one of the problems with using an iPhone with WiFi service on planes is that according to many people, you can't just have WiFi running on an iPhone without activating the cell service too.
That's not completely correct, at least not with the current (v. 2.X) iPhone OS.
Step 1) Turn on Airplane mode. Boo. All wireless access is turned off. Fear not... Step 2) In the Wi-Fi settings, turn Wi-Fi back on. Don't touch the Airplane Mode button.
Sweet. Tried it out and works like a charm.