Can You Use Bluetooth Headphones On A Plane?

If you fly on airplanes more often than you go to the movie theater, you might look forward to catching up on this year's blockbusters during your next long-haul flight. But only once you settle into your seat do you realize ... you forgot to pack a pair of wired headphones. It's a shared experience many a traveler can probably empathize with.

Bluetooth headphones are swiftly and mercilessly marching wired audio to the museum of obsolescence. It's almost a guarantee that one day we will see Apple's iconic white wired earbuds carefully curled up on display at the Smithsonian, if it hasn't happened already. Yet, many airlines have remained about ten steps behind the pace of this not-so-novel technology, and — with a few exceptions — in-flight entertainment remains beholden to wired tech.

However, there might be a good reason for this related to wireless devices interfering with the plane's instrumentation. This means a few airlines have rules around when and how you can use wireless headphones. Another reason could simply be that the airline hasn't gotten around to retrofitting its aircraft with the latest and greatest tech.

But, by knowing the dos and don'ts and hows of using Bluetooth headphones and earbuds on your flight, you'll be ready to dish your opinion on the latest Marvel movie at the next family barbecue.

Why airplanes and wireless devices remain frenemies

The biggest hang-up airlines have with wireless connections like Bluetooth is that people will often use wireless devices when they are not in airplane mode. This is because devices that are sending and receiving cellular data do mess with the airplane's delicate instruments. So, if you're going to use your Bluetooth headphones, make sure you've got airplane mode on. Other airlines may also just ask you to not use Bluetooth devices during take-off and landing.

On the other hand, some airlines actually do offer wireless connectivity on their in-flight entertainment devices. On your next flight with Air France, American Airlines, Delta, and a few others, you may be able to bust out your AirPods or Raycons. As for why some airlines have Bluetooth connectivity and others don't? The simple answer is that an airline may go years without upgrading its fleets with newer, more comfortable seats and electronics. But one thing's for sure: Some airlines are planning to change that.

United Airlines is embarking on a massive project in 2023 to make sure that over 300 airplanes have better interiors and (most excitingly) Bluetooth connectivity. As the major airlines begin to make this tech the norm, other airlines big and small will follow suit to stay competitive.

Other solutions that might be even better

In lieu of upgrading their hardware, many airlines have made software and system upgrades so that passengers can use their own devices to watch the newest movies or their favorite episodes of "The Office." By connecting to the airline's in-flight Wi-Fi, a passenger can access the airline's website and start watching on their computer, phone, or tablet. This is one solution that allows you to use your Bluetooth-enabled headphones with ease.

However, not every airline offers this and many travelers don't want to pull out a laptop or watch "Dune" on a tiny phone screen. So another solution is to buy a Bluetooth headphone jack adapter. These adapters can be plugged into most airplane screen headphone jacks and allow you to connect your headphones to the adapter, thereby allowing you to watch and listen with your own wireless device! At around $25 to $30 U.S. dollars, this may not be worth it to everyone. However, if you really want to get your money's worth out of your long-haul flight ticket and be able to watch all the latest releases, it's a drop in the bucket.