I’ve been using wireless Bluetooth headphones on every flight and I’ve never had any issues. However, I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m allowed to use them for the whole flight, and sometimes I have to turn them off during the take-off and landing. Also, the rules for wireless devices can be a bit vague at times.
That’s why in this article, we’ll cover these topics:
- Are Bluetooth headphones allowed on planes;
- What are the rules for different airline regulators and the most popular airlines;
- Do Bluetooth headphones work with devices in airplane mode;
- How to connect wireless headphones to the inflight entertainment system to watch movies;
- Which noise-canceling headphones are the best for airplanes.
Can You Use Wireless Bluetooth Headphones on Planes?
Do Bluetooth headphones even work on airplanes? The short answer is yes, they work, and you can use Bluetooth headphones on most flights. Bluetooth headphones are considered to be short-range Bluetooth devices, similar to Bluetooth keyboards. The aircraft interference from short-term Bluetooth devices is minimal, so most of the time, they’re allowed.
That said, some airlines and airline regulators don’t allow using any Bluetooth devices on flights. For instance, you won’t be able to use Bluetooth headphones on some Canadian flights. And while some airlines allow using Bluetooth headphones during the takeoff and landing, some will ask you to switch them off.
But in general, my advice would be to just take them anyway and pack a pair of wired earbuds just in case. The worst-case scenario would be that the flight attendant would ask you to switch off your Bluetooth headphones. You won’t get into any trouble. Just be respectful and turn them off if anyone asks you to rather than arguing.
What About Airpods?
AirPods work similarly to other wireless Bluetooth headphones. So the rules for them are identical as well – you’ll be able to use them on most flights but you’ll most likely be asked to switch them off during take-off and landing.
Your AirPods will work on a plane and you’ll be able to connect to the inflight entertainment systems if they’re set up for Bluetooth access. If not, you’ll have to buy a separate airplane Bluetooth transmitter/receiver, which converts the two-prong audio output of the inflight entertainment systems to a Bluetooth connection.
Why Can’t Headphones Be Worn During Take-Off and Landing?
The main reason why you aren’t allowed to use headphones during take-off and landing is that you need to be able to hear any announcements. If there is an emergency, you need to hear instructions from the airplane staff. Usually, the airlines are worried about headset cables obstructing movements in case of evacuation though this isn’t an issue with wireless Bluetooth headphones.
Which Airlines Allow Using Bluetooth Headphones on Planes?
The final decision for using Bluetooth headphones on flights is based on which airline you’re flying with. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular airline rules here.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but not during the takeoff and landing. They have an inflight entertainment app that you can watch on your phone or tablet together with your Bluetooth headphones.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but not during the takeoff and landing. Although Delta is adding Bluetooth support for their inflight entertainment systems, on most flights it still isn’t available yet, so you’ll be able to use it only with wired headphones.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. As of right now, on most flights, you won’t be able to use Bluetooth headphones together with their inflight entertainment systems. However, on some flights, you’ll be able to use their app for streaming, and they’re currently upgrading their entertainment systems to provide Bluetooth support.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but not during the takeoff and landing. On flights with Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to use their inflight entertainment systems on your browser, which means that you’ll be able to watch it on your Bluetooth headphones. However, you’ll need to pay an additional 8$ for internet access during the flight.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use Bluetooth headphones with their inflight entertainment systems.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines’ inflight entertainment systems aren’t compatible with Bluetooth headphones.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. Spirit doesn’t offer any inflight entertainment.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight but only once the plane gets to the height of 10, 000 feet, and the battery must be removable. Their inflight entertainment systems can’t connect to Bluetooth headphones.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. On some aircraft, their inflight entertainment systems will be able to connect to Bluetooth, and on some not. You’ll have to inquire them about each flight individually.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. They do have an inflight entertainment system but it’s usable only together with wired headphones, which are provided free of charge.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed during the whole flight. Ryanair doesn’t offer any inflight entertainment systems.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but not during the takeoff and landing. You won’t be able to use Bluetooth headphones together with their inflight entertainment system.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but you’ll have to switch them off during take-off and landing. They aren’t compatible with their inflight entertainment systems.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but they’ll have to be stowed away during take-off, landing, and during the security briefing. All devices also must be switched to airplane mode during all parts of the flight. Most of their flights are very short, so EasyJet doesn’t offer inflight entertainment systems.
Unfortunately, Frontier Airlines doesn’t mention the use of Bluetooth devices anywhere online. They’re regulated by the FAA, so most likely you’ll be able to use Bluetooth headphones but you’ll be asked to switch them off during the take-off and landing. Frontier Airlines doesn’t offer any inflight entertainment systems.
Bluetooth headphones are allowed, but they’ll have to be switched off during take-off and landing. Qantas offers an app for their inflight entertainment system, which means that you’ll be able to use it on your phone or tablet together with your Bluetooth headphones.
On WestJet, Bluetooth headphones are permitted, but they have to be removed during the safety briefing. They also offer an inflight entertainment app, so you’ll be able to use it on your phone together with your Bluetooth headphones.
Emirates is one of the few airlines that offers Bluetooth connectivity for their inflight entertainment systems on most of their flights. You’re allowed to use Bluetooth headphones, but they must be stowed away during take-off, landing, and the safety briefing.
On Hawaiian Airlines, Bluetooth headphones are allowed but they’ll have to be switched off and stowed away until the aircraft has reached at least 10 000 feet altitude. On Main Cabin and Extra Comfort fares, you’ll also be able to use their inflight entertainment app, which you can use on your phone or tablet.
What Do Different Airline Regulators Say About Using Bluetooth Headphones?
Airline regulators each cover a different region, which is why it’s important to understand their rules when flying internationally. For instance, on a flight to China, you’ll be allowed to use Bluetooth headphones during the largest part of the flight. But you’ll be asked to switch them off when you enter China, where Bluetooth devices aren’t allowed on planes. Make sure that you know what to expect on your flights!
FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
The FAA controls the U.S. airspace, which means that the following rules apply to all flights operating within the U.S. In 2013, the FAA made some positive changes in electronic device usage during flights. Short-range Bluetooth devices, such as wireless keyboards and Bluetooth headphones can be used during the whole flight, including takeoff and landing.
The only electronic devices that are restricted are ones that use a cellular connection (mobile phones, smartwatches, laptops) and they must be in airplane mode at all times, including take-off and landing. This reduces interference with the aircraft communication systems.
TCCA (Transport Canada Civil Aviation)
Transport Canada says that transmitting electronic devices shouldn’t be used on airplanes, but some are okay to use. They haven’t specifically mentioned Bluetooth devices, and they say that the final decision rests with the specific airline. So if you’re flying within Canada, you should check with the airline you’ll be flying with.
IATA (International Air Transport Association)
IATA, which essentially governs the rest of the world (82% of total air traffic,) hasn’t mentioned Bluetooth headphones specifically. However, IATA prohibits Bluetooth usage during critical stages of the flight, such as takeoff and landing, which means that you shouldn’t use Bluetooth headphones during the critical stages of the flight.
Air China states that Bluetooth headphones can be used during the flight but must be switched off during take-off and landing. All portable devices must be switched to airplane mode and Bluetooth connections are allowed only during the non-critical stages of the flight.
Can You Use Bluetooth Headphones with Inflight Entertainment to Watch Movies?
On longer flights, airlines offer inflight entertainment services, where you can watch the latest movies through the built-in screen in the front seat. I don’t go to the cinema that often, so I usually use this chance to watch the latest movies that aren’t available on Netflix.
Unfortunately, the built-in entertainment systems usually are quite outdated, and quite often you won’t be able to connect them to your Bluetooth headphones. Most of them still use the two-pin AUX input, which means that you’re stuck with the headphones provided by the airline. However, you’ll be happy to know there is a hack for this.
If you purchase a Bluetooth Transmitter/Receiver, you can connect your Bluetooth headphones to airplane entertainment systems that still use the two-pin input. You just plug in the two-pin end to the inflight entertainment system, connect your Bluetooth headphones to this device, and your headphones should be connected.
Some airlines, such as American Airlines, offer entertainment apps that you can download on your device and use through the airplane’s Wi-Fi. If you download this app, you’ll be able to use your Bluetooth headphones without any tech-savvy hacks. Bear in mind that only some airlines offer this, which is why most of the time, you’ll have to use Bluetooth transmitters to connect your Bluetooth headphones.
Do Bluetooth Headphones Work with Phones on Airplane Mode?
Bluetooth is considered a transmitting signal, which is why some devices switch off Bluetooth as soon as you press “Airplane mode.” That’s why a lot of people think that Bluetooth headphones won’t work while the phone is in Airplane mode. However, you should still be able to switch Bluetooth back on by clicking the Bluetooth icon once again.
Here’s how you do that:
iOS (Apple Devices)
On Apple devices, turning the Airplane mode on won’t switch off Bluetooth. It used to be a problem but they fixed that issue with the introduction of Apple Airpods.
On Android devices (Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, Google, OnePlus) switching the Airplane mode on will turn off Bluetooth. You can enable it once again by opening up the phone settings and switching Bluetooth back on (Click on the grayed-out Bluetooth icon, so that it turns blue once again.) This will enable Bluetooth once again, and the airplane mode will still be turned on.
Will You Be Able to Charge Bluetooth Headphones during the Flight?
Most older aircraft and budget airlines don’t have any charging outlets where you would be able to charge your Bluetooth headphones. However, some airlines offer USB ports on some of their aircraft.
For instance, Southwest doesn’t offer any charging ports, Delta offers charging ports only on first-class tickets on the following aircraft: 737, 757, and 767-300. American Airlines, offers charging ports on most of their aircraft. You should reach out to each airline individually or check out this guide.
Tip: How to Use Two Bluetooth Headphones at the Same Time
Even in 2021, rarely do airlines offer inflight entertainment systems in front seats that are usable with Bluetooth headphones. Even if they do, you’re able to use them only on a single pair of headphones.
However, some airlines now offer apps for their inflight entertainment systems, which you can use on your phone or tablet. Most newer tablets and smartphones now offer dual audio support. Most notably, you’ll be able to connect to multiple Bluetooth headphones on almost all Samsung and Apple devices.
There is another workaround though. If you purchase a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver with a two-prong adapter, then you’ll be able to connect to most old-school inflight entertainment systems on multiple devices simultaneously. This depends on what kind of adapter you get, but most support listening on at least two headphones simultaneously.
Which Are the Best Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones for Travel?
Noise-canceling headphones work miracles on planes. Not only will you be able to listen to movies and music on a much deeper level, but they’re also great for sleeping on planes. I usually turn up some relaxing background noises in my noise-canceling headphones and start to fall asleep almost immediately. Without them, I have trouble sleeping, especially if I’m sitting close to children.
Almost everyone agrees that either Sony or Bose makes the best noise-canceling headphones. Two popular models, in particular, get featured almost everywhere as the best possible choices. Although they’re really expensive, they’re well worth the price. Let’s take a look at both of these options so you can decide which one will suit your personal needs!
1. Sony WH1000XM3 Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headphones
These sony headphones are some of the most popular high-end headphones on the market. Although they’re priced pretty high, they’re packed with all the latest features. The built-in sony chip makes these headphones quite intelligent. Without the chip, you basically wouldn’t hear anything, as the sound isolation is very impressive. The chip will pass through all the important ambient noises such as announcements and conversations.
On the side of these headphones, you’ll find that they have built-in touch support. For instance, if you’re listening to music, and suddenly need to stop and talk to someone, just move your hand over the touch panel, and the music will stop. You’ll start to hear everything without taking the headphones off! They also come with built-in Alexa support.
They’re also very convenient for traveling. They come with an audio cable and a two-pin adapter for the older airplane entertainment systems. You can also fold them up and store them in an organized bag, that also holds the charger, audio jack, and adapter. The battery boasts 30-hours of use and they also come with a quick charge feature which charges 5 hours of juice in just 10 minutes.
To purchase: Amazon
2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones
Bose noise-canceling headphones were the market leaders until Sony stepped up their game. Now, a lot of people agree that Sony WH1000XM3 headphones are slightly better compared to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. That said, the Bose series 2 headphones are still very decent, which is why they’re still recommended as one of the best high-end choices out there.
They come with built-in Alexa support and very impressive noise-canceling hardware. Instead of having a touch control system that comes with Sony, the Bose headphones are controlled with buttons or voice. Overall, they’re very comfortable and slightly lighter than the Sony WH1000XM3 headphones. The battery life isn’t as impressive at only a 20-hour battery, but many people said that they’ll last longer, closer to 25 hours.
The Bose headphones are also foldable and come with a nice case that’s great for traveling. You’ll also find an audio wire in the case, but unfortunately, there aren’t any two-pin adapters included, which means that you won’t be able to connect to older airplane entertainment systems. I prefer the Sony WH1000XM3 headphones over Bose QuietComfort 35 II. It doesn’t matter which ones you get, because both of them are damn-near perfect for traveling on airplanes!
To purchase: Amazon
In the end, each airline will have its own rules when it comes to Bluetooth headsets. If you want to be proactive to make sure that you won’t come across any issues on your flight, consider calling and speaking to someone from your specific airline to get the green light before you board. Most airlines will allow you to use Bluetooth headphones, including AirPods.
You might find that the crew will ask you to remove your headphones during taxiing, takeoff, and touch down so make sure that you listen to their instructions! When it comes to the best Bluetooth headphones on the market, you’ll find nothing but glowing reviews for Sony WH1000XM3 Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headphones, though Bose QuietComfort 35 II is still a solid option. Both of these were basically made for travelers so you can’t go wrong!