The "Passengers will always use their cell phones if something goes wrong" assumption

This is truly the definition of a mundane and pointless thread, but I feel the need to vent my frustration over a recurring assumption I read again and again:

In particularly with regards to MH370: “Why didn’t the passengers use their cell phones to call for help? The passengers would have called for help. They didn’t, therefore your theory is wrong. Passengers would have noticed as soon as something went wrong and called for help. Passengers would have used their cell phones…Passengers would have used their cell phones…Passengers would have used their cell phones…”

First off, MH370 was a night flight. Most passengers can’t tell where the airplane is geographically located, and don’t care. Many would be sleeping.

Secondly, passengers DON’T just grab for their cell phones and call for help as soon as something is awry - and that’s assuming they knew or cared enough to know that anything was awry. If the airplane makes a turn westward off course, are passengers going to reach for their cell phones? If passengers called for help every time an airplane made a 20-degree banking turn, there’d be thousands of calls for help every day.

Rant over. This isn’t even worth a BBQ Pitting, but it’s just frustrating.

There’s also the small matter of there not being any cell towers in the middle of the ocean.

I’m uncertain as to how help could be provided. I think it would add knowledge to exactly what happened during the flight, which could be useful, but there’s not a thing that could be done to change the situation. Unless, of course, Bruce Willis is available to rappel down from a fighter jet and break into the cockpit.

From Friedo:

“There’s also the small matter of there not being any cell towers in the middle of the ocean.”

This is the first thing I thought of. But as a passenger I don’t try and outthink the cabin crew. If the crew announced something dire then I would be all over it but the [lack of] evidence indicates the plane just flew off to some random place and eventually crashed.

there’s always an exception/ass to every rule

Even if the majority does not reach for the phone for whatever reason, an ass will. There’s one in every crowd

That caller will wonder what the f is wrong with the phone, why cant they call out…

That just means that between 1 and <max capacity> passengers will attempt to connect to non-existent cell towers, leaving behind exactly as much remotely-discernible evidence as we have now: precisely zilch.

So I suppose the correct answer is exactly Friedo said: even if they had tried using the phone, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. Whether they were all furiously pounding on their keypads or blissfully ignorant, it would look exactly the same to anyone not on the airplane at that moment.

Dead people can’t use cell phones.

Good thing, too.

What about inflight WiFi service, Malaysian Air offer it? Surely someone would tweet something snarky.
“Plane heading in wrong direction. #blindpilot #morefrequentflyermiles

This web page indicates that nothing in their current fleet has in-flight Wi-Fi, including the Boeing 777-200s they still have. If Malaysia Airlines ever offered in-flight Wi-Fi, it must have been on the only two aircraft that they’ve lost this century: MH370 and MH17 in Ukraine. And since airlines tend to bulk-specify and bulk-buy their aircraft, it’s not very likely to have two aircraft at variance with the rest of their 777 stable.