Using your own headphones or Airpods on a plane, rather than the cheap sets that airlines give out, can make a big difference, particularly on a long haul flight. But can you use them?
The official policy of most airlines is that you can use Airpods and other short-range Bluetooth accessories, during the flight but not during taxiing, take-off or landing on some airlines.
Of course, although you may want to use your Airpods to watch movies and other things on the inflight entertainment systems, you can also use them with your own devices to listen to music, play games and other ways of passing the time.
Can Airpods go through airport security?
TSA rules allow Apple Airpods to be carried through airport security in your carry on baggage.
Most larger electronic devices (as large or larger than a cellphone) should be taken out of your carry on bags and be placed in a separate bin at the security checkpoint to be screened by x-ray. However, smaller devices, such as Airpods can be left in your carry on bags.
Do you have to take Airpods out for airport security? If wearing them you should remove them and place in a tray to pass through airport security
This is a passenger asking the TSA via Twitter whether or not Airpods are allowed in their carry on bag:
Can you use AirPods on a plane?
On some airlines you cannot use Airpods during takeoff and landing though. If you do then one of the flight attendants will soon spot you and ask you to remove them.
How to connect your Airpods to the inflight entertainment system
The one thing you may not be able to do is to use them with in-flight entertainment systems as you cannot connect using a wired connection since they only operate wirelessly (on Bluetooth when connecting to non-Apple products).
Until mid-way through 2021 the only way of connecting your own headphones to the in-flight entertainment system (IES) was physically plugging them into the socket on the IES system.
But from mid-2021 United Airlines started to add Bluetooth capability to connect to the IES wirelessly via Bluetooth to its aircraft. Many other airlines have been adding the facility for Bluetooth connection to their in-flight entertainment systems too.
So you may be able to connect via Bluetooth on your flight if this has been implemented on the particular aircraft you are flying on. You can ask your airline beforehand to check via their website or help facilities.
In case you are flying on an aircraft/airline without this facility, there is an airline headphone adapter you can buy called an Airfly which is designed for Airpods. You can purchase one and it will allow you to listen to the in-flight entertainment system on your Airpods. Airfly does this by being plugged into the in-flight system and then you connect your Airpods to it via Bluetooth. Purchase Airfly on Amazon.
Can you use noise-cancelling Airpods on a plane?
Yes you certainly can use noise-canceling Airpods on a plane and I would definitely recommend investing in a pair for a long haul flight if you don’t have any.
A pair of noise-cancelling Airpods or headphones are the number one item on my list to take with me when flying on long flights. As well as making music or movie dialogue easy to hear, They definitely help make the flight much less tiring by not having the constant noise of the aircraft in your ears.
Only Airpods Pro and Airpods Max (headphones) have active noise cancellation capabilities. Apple Airpods Pro are more expensive than standard Airpods but in my opinion, if you are about to go on a long flight they are worth paying the extra for.
If you haven’t yet bought a pair then you can buy a pair of Airpods Pro on Amazon – Apple AirPods Pro They come with a wireless charging case that allows you to charge the Airbuds by simply placing them in the case.
Some people find using Airpod Pros for a very long period can cause a certain amount of ear pain. Certainly I can understand this is I am not keen on having things stuck in my ears for long periods as I find them uncomfortable.
The solution would be to use Airpods Max which are headphones that fit comfortably over the ears so are more suitable to use for a long time.
Alternatively, you can save a great deal of money by buying other Bluetooth headphones that are cheaper but just as good (if not better) such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Active Noise Cancelling headphones that I use. They have amazing sound quality and noise-canceling capabilities as well as having up to 30 hours of playtime between charges. So perfect for a long flight.
Connecting Airpods to an iPhone in airplane mode?
If you want to connect to your iPhone to listen to music etc then you will need to switch on Bluetooth after going into Airplane Mode.
What is airplane mode?
Basically airplane mode (flight mode) disables a device’s cellphone capabilities so that it cannot make or receive phone calls, texts or use the phone’s cellular data. When you put a phone in airplane mode it also normally switches off the Bluetooth and wifi connection of the device.
With the Bluetooth switched off then it would not be possible to use your Airpods or other wireless headphones. But once you have switched mobile phones/cell phones to flight mode you can then re-enable Bluetooth and then connect your Airpods using it.
How to enable Bluetooth in Airplane Mode
Fortunately, on Apple iPhones you can go to your settings and switch the Bluetooth back on with the phone still in airplane mode.
The images below show the settings to turn on bluetooth and wi-fi:
- Image 1 – Phone in normal mode with wifi and Bluetooth on
- Image 2 – Phone in standard airplane mode (no wifi or Bluetooth)
- Image 3 – Phone in airplane mode but with Bluetooth switched back on
Why can you not use your Airpods during takeoff and landing?
The reason you cannot use Airpods or any other type of headphones or earbuds during takeoff and landing on many airlines is for reasons of safety.
If you were wearing Airpods with particularly loud music being played then there is a good chance that you may not hear an important safety notice given by the flight crew or a flight attendant.
However, despite this safety concern, many airlines are now allowing passengers to use small electronic devices including Airpods grom “gate to gate”. These airlines include American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaskan, Spirit and JetBlue.
Can you charge Airpods during a flight?
Although Airpods have quite a long battery life and may well last for your entire flight, even on a very long flight, they may still run out of charge.
Increasingly on newer aircraft you will find USB charging points at each seat, sometimes only in first and business class but even in coach too sometimes. If not then you could use a portable charger.
Newer Airpods recharge when they are placed in their carry cases.
Can you use Airpods on International flights?
When flying between or over most “civilized” countries of the world you can wear and use Airpods and other Bluetooth earbuds or headphones as you would when flying on a domestic flight within the US.
However, it seems that if you are flying to China then you may be able to use them until you reach Chinese airspace but after that, you must switch them off. No real surprise there then!
Take care with your Airpods
When I was researching the use of Airpods on the TSA Twitter service, #AskTSA, almost as many people who were asking if they could use Airpods on a plane were actually saying that they left theirs on a flight or at the security checkpoint and were asking how they could get them back.
So make sure you take good care of yours!
The Federal Aviation Administration rules regarding the use of Bluetooth devices on aircraft which came into force in 2013 – Portable Electronic Devices
The Civil Aviation Administration has a post that details most of the policies regarding using electronic devices on a flight. Flying with gadgets – The dos and don’ts of using mobile phones and electronic devices on board aircraft