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Can You Use Bluetooth On a Plane?

There is a lot to plan and do if you are going on a trip. You are packed, everything is ready, and the last thing you put in your hand luggage is your headphones. Bluetooth headphones. Now you have a little panic. Can you use Bluetooth on a plane?

You might think in today’s high-tech world; the answer is simple. But it isn’t. There are plenty of rules, and not every airline adopts the same policies.

The use of a Portable Electronic Device, or PED, can have different rules in some places and under different circumstances. And it can sometimes change on a whim.

Prepare

The single most important thing is to ensure you know the rules before turning up at the airport. And if you are changing airlines, the rules that apply to all the carriers that you may be flying with. Prepare before you go, and you won’t be disappointed.

Why Is Using Bluetooth an Issue With Airlines?

Issue With Airlines

It isn’t that difficult to understand why they are so fussy about using Bluetooth. Imagine a jet with 400 people on board. It is on final approach, and the conversation the captain is having with air traffic control is interrupted. Interrupted by you talking to someone telling them about the curry you had last night.

Could that happen? 

Technically it could, and airlines take the view that it isn’t worth the risk. Quite right. The use of PEDs is restricted by airlines and aviation agencies because of the risk of wireless Bluetooth interference during a flight.

Who Is Responsible?

But, the sometimes confusing thing is, they let the airlines make the decisions on what is okay and what isn’t. They have no set policy that all must follow. Passing the buck in case of a problem? Probably, but that is another conversation.

A Potential Problem

I have already commented on potential wireless interference, but there are further potential problems. It is considered possible that other communication and even navigation systems on the plane could be compromised. And this is a possibility even when the device is not actually in use, just turned on.

Some studies have concluded that PEDs in some circumstances could cause the instrumentation of the aircraft to malfunction. Most of the instrumentation these days is computer controlled, so you can appreciate the concerns.

Nevertheless, many airlines allow some use of Bluetooth devices. But there are limitations and regulations, and as I said, every airline interprets and enforces the rules in different ways.

Is It That Much of a Risk?

Yes, it could be. Have you ever experienced interference using a cell phone? Can you recall a time where several people were all on the same network at the same time? Did it affect the reception or even kick you out? WiFi interference can be a problem, and as it throws up safety concerns, it must be managed carefully.

Can You Use Bluetooth On a Plane? – What the Airlines Say

You are probably getting the message now that airlines set their own Bluetooth rules. Not the most convenient way of doing things, but that is the situation. Here is a summary of some of the main points that some airlines will enforce.

  • Some airlines restrict usage on Take-off and Landing.
  • Some airlines do not allow you to use Bluetooth below 10,000 feet.
  • All Personal devices must be used in Airplane mode.
  • Some airlines insist that the battery must be removable.
  • PEDs must not be used during safety demonstrations.
  • Some airlines prohibit the usage of devices with more than 160Wh battery.
  • Some airlines insist that you do not use Bluetooth until there is a cabin announcement to say you can.
  • On some aircraft, there is a sign “No Mobiles,” you have to wait until it is turned off to use your device.
  • Some airlines forbid use during taxi, takeoff, and landing only.

It is important to make your inquiries. As you can see from this brief list, the regulations can be different for each airline.

What About A Personal Interference? 

The majority of people would welcome being able to use their devices for work. Or even just to be able to send a message or two to family or friends. But guess what? Some are going to abuse the situation with little regard for those around them.

Airlines have to think of the comfort of passengers. Traveling by air can be stressful for a lot of people as it is. The last thing the airline staff need is a reason for problems. 

Strapped into your seat, you might not like Metallica at full volume coming from your neighbor for ten hours. Or endless, pointless calls by someone close by to everyone and their dog, expounding the same information. In addition to the technical problems, limiting the use of devices is an inconvenience for some but, unfortunately, a necessity in some cases. 

What Can You Do?

Here are two basic things that might help to smooth the way:

  • Airlines will all have their regulations, so find out about them before you travel.
  • If you intend to use Bluetooth headphones during a flight, find out from your airline if you are allowed.

Can You Use Your Bluetooth Headphones on a Plane?

Bluetooth Headphones

You can very often use your Bluetooth headphones on a plane. But there are some regulations applied by the majority of airlines that might affect your usage. These regulations may differ according to what sort of headphones you are using.

Over-Ear Headphones

These are usually permissible, but there are size restrictions. They need to be able to be folded up, and when folded, they must be no larger than a smartphone. That will rule out bulky headphones that do not fold away. Many of the headphones these days are foldable to about the right size.

Can You Use AirPods?

There do not appear to be any airplane rules regarding AirPods. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be any. A last-minute call to the airline would be the best option. And if you want to plug into the entertainment options on the flight, you will probably need an adapter. More on this later.

Noise-Canceling Headphones?

Yes, you can. But the same rules apply as over-ear phones for the majority of flights. That is, when they are folded up, they can’t be larger than an average smartphone.

Therefore, you can see that one issue to consider is the physical size of the headphones you are proposing to use. As a general rule, to re-emphasize, your headphones must fold up to the size of your phone.

Can You Use Bluetooth On a Plane? – Other Conditions

Airplane Mode

Whatever PED you are using must have Airplane Mode as an option you can use. That is a must. Cellular data is not allowed. I will come back to Airplane Mode a little later.

Batteries

There are restrictions in place about the types of batteries that you are allowed to put in your hand baggage. We have all no doubt seen the instances of batteries catching fire. Not a good idea in the cabin at 30,000 feet.

Most Bluetooth-enabled devices use Lithium batteries. Some airlines will limit the size of the battery to not more than 100 watts/hour (Wh). Once again, a good idea is to check with the airline you will be using. 

Check with the Airlines

It is important to remember, so let me mention it once more. Every airline has its own rules and regulations. So if you are making an interconnecting flight using a second airline, make sure you check that airline’s regulations as well. What is acceptable on the first flight might not be on the second.

Can You Plug Your Headphones Into The Plane’s Entertainment System?

Some might ask, why would you want to? The airline often provides headphones for free to work with the IFE (In-Flight Entertainment) system.

The trouble is they are best described as rather cheap and don’t offer the best sound. Not unreasonable since you are getting them for free. It is only for a few hours, so most put up with them because they are better than nothing. But what if you want to plug your phones in to get a good sound?

You may find to use your phones, you will need an adapter to convert your one pin jack to a two-pin. If you want to use AirPods, then you will require a dongle. So the answer is, yes, you can, if you have the correct connections. On a long flight, make sure you have enough allowable battery power with you.

Taking Your PEDs Through Security

One thing the governing bodies have instigated are regulations when you go through security. Again there are some rules to follow and also some common sense that needs to be applied to keep everything safe.

  • Keep your PEDs where they can be easily checked in your hand luggage.
  • Do not try to get through security with PEDs or similar in your pockets without checking them in.
  • If you put PEDs in baggage to be stowed, make sure there is a lock on the bag.
  • If you are taking anything larger than your phone in the cabin, keep it separate to allow for its own screening process.
  • Make sure all extra batteries, including rechargeable batteries, you are carrying for whatever device are put in your hand luggage.

These rules might seem unnecessary in some respects, but rules they are. If you follow them, you should get through security unscathed. Try to be clever, and you might find yourself in a private room hoping they have lost their rubber gloves.

Using Your Bluetooth in Airplane Mode

Airplane Mode

If you have a Bluetooth transmitter and an adapter, then you have no problems, and Airplane mode will not be a hindrance. If your airline gives you in-flight WIFI, you can just hook up to that from your device.

Adapters

If you are using the in-flight entertainment system, then you need to use either the onboard WiFi or an adapter. I have already mentioned the adapter and included some options at the end of this article. They are not expensive and well worth having.

In the case of AirPods, you will need a dongle adapter. You will also need to set it up when you are onboard. The connection process is not dissimilar to that you would use at home. 

If you have a laptop or smartphone with you, then you will need to turn off Bluetooth on these devices. This is to prevent the AirPods from trying to connect to them. When the lights for connection have finished syncing, just plug in your adapter. Don’t try to perform these actions until you have followed the airline regulations about Bluetooth connections.

The Key Is To Be Prepared

As with a lot of things, rules can change. This has come about in some part because of public pressure, but also courtesy of improved technology. This has allowed airlines to update their regulations regarding PEDs.

As we have seen, they vary, which makes you wonder where they get their information from. And why do the regulations differ in the first place? But that is another discussion. 

The fact is that airlines make their own rules. Our job is just to abide by them. Complying with them will make air travel better and less stressful for everyone.

To Recap On What It Is You, The Traveler, Can Do

  • Do some homework before you travel and check the rules for each airline you will use.
  • Take note especially about rules regarding batteries and chargers.
  • Make sure you can lock your case if it is in baggage and carrying any of your PEDs.
  • Make sure the drive you intend to use is fully charged.
  • If you are storing them in hand baggage, pack them in a convenient place for access for security checks.

Here are some examples of those adapters I mentioned in case you happen to need one.

Looking for Awesome Bluetooth Items or Advice?

We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $100, the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Conference Calls, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Commuting you can buy in 2022.

You might also enjoy our reviews of the Best AptX Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Bluetooth Headphone Adapters, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers with Alarm Clocks, and the Best Bluetooth Speakers with Light Show currently on the market.

And don’t miss our handy articles on How to Fix Sound Delay in Bluetooth HeadphonesBluetooth Headphones Connected but Have No SoundDoes Dolby Atmos Work with Bluetooth Headphones, and Bluetooth Multipoint Explained for more useful information.

Can You Use Bluetooth On a Plane – Final Thoughts

The word of the day is… preparation. Make it part of the process of getting ready to go. That way, you won’t walk into nasty surprises at the airport or on the plane.

Until next time, happy listening and safe travels.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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