Can you use AirPods on a plane?

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Have you wondered: Can I use my AirPods on a plane when they ask you to turn off all communication devices? In a nutshell you are indeed able to use your Airpods on a plane. Communication devices like mobiles do interfere with the navigation instruments inside the aircraft, that being said, the connection AirPods uses via Bluetooth is a short-range wave that causes minimal to no effect on those. The same will apply to any other headphones device connecting to your mobile through Bluetooth.

As a general rule, airline officials are instructed to discourage the use of any communication devices during the flight. However, most of the time, they will only instruct you to turn off the Bluetooth connection and phone signal reception during landings and takeoffs. This might sound like they are being extra picky with their rules, however in the specific case of headphones, this is done as a safety measure, and it is required by all airlines, no exception. They need to make sure you are able to listen to announcements during these stages of the flight, which is when accidents are most likely to happen.

Are wired earbuds or headphones unaffected by this?

The problem about the use of Airpods on a plane is not about the device itself or what is its purpose; Is more about how it works, or put in better words, how it transmits the data and how that transmission pollutes the navigation space with radio signals.

When you connect any wired device to your phone you are stablishing a local connection, on which the transmission of the data is made through physical means, not through air waves. This make wires headphones a really good option to listen to your media while on a flight. No wonders why they give away those cheap wired headphones.

How would I know if my airline allows me to use AirPods during the flight?

We have compiled a small list of the most popular airline companies and their willingness to accept short-range Bluetooth devices on the flight:

AirlineDuring takeoff and landingAbove 10,000 feetIn-flight system compatibility
American AirlinesNOYESApp only
United AirlinesYESYESApp only
Southwest AirlinesNOYESYES
Alaska AirlinesYESYESNO
Spirit AirlinesYESYESNO
British AirwaysNOYESNO
Allegiant AirNOYESNO
Qantas AirlinesNOYESApp only
Emirates AirlinesNOYESYES
Hawaiian AirlinesNOYESApp only

What do official air traffic control organisms say about the use of AirPods on an airplane?

In the more broader aspect, we have the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which controls over 82% of the total air transit. They don’t specify any regulations regarding the use of Bluetooth or AirPods during any flight. However, they do state that no bluetooth devices should stay on during critical stages of the flight (meaning takeoff and landing), and all mobile devices should be in Airplane mode. The Federal Aviation Administration, controlling the entire US air space, have essentially the same rules as the IATA, but with a slight turn: They do disclaim it is ok to use Airpods or any other kind of Bluetooth devices during the flight, when the plane has reached its maximum altitude.

Can you use AirPods on a plane

In contrast, the Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) discourages the use of any Bluetooth device inside airplanes. They say these restrictions don’t apply for a small range these devices, but it is unclear as to what type they actually permit. There is a grey area in terms of their regulations when it comes to the use of Airpods inside a plane. For the most part, you are able to use them above 10,000 of altitude if you ask the flight attendant.

In more conservative setups, like in the case of China you are not allowed under any circumstance to use your Airpods or any other Bluetooth device while flying on a plane. This only applies when flying over the Chinese airspace. For the rest of the flight, it is ok to use them, except for takeoffs and landings.

According to air traffic regulation officials, can I use AirPods on a plane? Judging from this information, it is completely fine to use AirPods on a plane. But if you are unsure about it, you can always ask first.

How can I connect my AirPods to the in-flight entertainment sound system on a plane?

Many Airlines offer passengers the possibility to hook up any wired headphones to the in-flight entertainment sound system of the plane. The audio quality is extremely awful, because the have divided the stereo input in two separate plugs to make our lives a little more miserable while attempting to get around their paid headphone renting scheme. However there are a few ways we can still work our way out of this and connect our AirPods or any other Bluetooth device to the plane’s sound system.

Using the aircraft WiFi network or App

You will also see on a few rare cases there will be an in-flight WiFi network available inside the plane. Depending on how this network is setup, you will be able to connect without paying any extra fees, but it is good to ask before attempting, to avoid any surprise. Once connected, you can access the movies and other info, like travel guides and such in the Airline’s welcome page.

If you decide to watch movies using the WiFi connection on the plane, you can listen to the audio of these media items using any Bluetooth headphones or AirPods connected to your device. This way, we can “bridge” the in-flight entertainment system through a mobile or laptop.

We can do the same using the Airline App. You can access the entertainment system by inputting your flight information. This way, you should be able to watch movies and videos using your AirPods for the audio.

Using a Bluetooth transmitters

For the more advance and geeky user, you can buy on Amazon (and maybe a million other stores online) Bluetooth transmitters to send the audio signal from the output speaker jack on the arm rest of your chair to your Bluetooth headset or AirPods.

You can use AirPods on a plane with audio transmitters

There are many brands in the market, but mainly any model will work. They bring a small headphone jack you have to connect to one of the two headphone outputs available. There is an extra step you will have to perform: Both the transmitter and your Airpods should be paired in order to work properly. If everything is setup accordingly, you should be able to hear the audio of the plane’s entertainment system.

Bear in mind, Airlines sometimes make the volume on these outputs extremely low (maybe on purpose) and sometimes, when you connect your device, you won’t be able to hear anything, leading you to think your million-dollar hack didn’t work. Most Bluetooth transmitters have a dedicated volume system. Just crank up the volume on your transmitter and you’ll be good to go.

Audio transmitters so you can use AirPods on a plane

Check these two options of transmitters:

Have a spare pair of wired headphones at hand in your travel backpack

Technology is great, but you will be surprised how sometimes even the most antiquated solution can get us through complicate situations. Get into the habit of holding on to a cheap pair of wired headphones, and have them available at all times. They won’t run out of charge, won’t give you headaches pairing to any other wireless network or device and you won’t have to pay any fees for using them.

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