Your phone’s airplane mode disables Bluetooth, so what’s the deal with Bluetooth on planes?
How can you use those wireless noise-canceling headphones or AirPods during your flight when “flight mode” switches off Bluetooth?
Does Bluetooth even work on airplanes? And can you use your Bluetooth headphones with the airlines in-flight entertainment system? Will turning on Bluetooth cause your plane to suddenly drop out of the sky?
Don’t worry all will be explained. So let’s jump in!
Using Bluetooth Headphones On A Plane
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulate civil aviation in the US.
Here is a quote from a press release they made on the subject of using personal electronics on planes.
Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
So, according to the FAA, you can use your cell phones wifi to connect to the plane wifi, but you should turn off the cellular connection.
And you can use “Bluetooth accessories” too. So you can use Bluetooth headphones on a plane as far as the FAA is concerned.
However, that same press release also says, “make safety your first priority” and “check with your airline to see if and when you can use your Portable Electronic Device”.
Bluetooth does work on planes, the FAA doesn’t restrict it, but they leave the final word up to the individual airlines.
So let’s take a closer look at what the airlines have to say about Bluetooth devices.
Not all airlines publish anything about using Bluetooth headphones on their website so in some cases I have checked on Twitter to see what their customer support is saying.
Is Bluetooth allowed on airplanes?
Alaska say that you can use “Noise-cancelling/reduction headsets” but that “Due to foreign government regulations, small electronic devices and short-range Bluetooth accessories (e.g., wireless mouse/keyboard) are prohibited from use below 10,000 feet, and must be turned off and stowed on descent into and on takeoff from Mexico”
Allegiant don’t talk about Bluetooth on their website but their customer service on Twitter said “”you can use bluetooth headphones but we don’t offer wifi so you’ll want to download some movies / music first”
For AA bluetooth earbuds are allowed to be used on flights:
But they don’t work with the entertainment seat back screens so bring your own device and download some entertainment before your flight.
Delta didn’t quite say that wireless headphones are permitted on their planes…
Instead they said they are not on the restricted list:
Delta’s entertainment system doesn’t work with Bluetooth though:
So if you want to use the inflight entertainment system then you’ll need wired headphones.
Maybe the fact that so many people buy
Frontier don’t mention bluetooth anywhere on their website.
Carlos asked JetBlue what kind of headphones on his flight:
And JetBlue customer service helpfully told him it was okay to use Bluetooth headphones with his own devices but that he would need wired headphones for their inflight entertainment system.
Fae checked with Southwest about using her bluetooth devices during her flight:
And Sarah from Southwest let her know that she could use wireless headphones but to make sure she was in airplane mode.
You might not be able to use your Bluetooth devices during takeoff and landing. Rocky advised that there would be an announcement letting you know when you could use your headphones.
Taxiing, takeoff and landing are the most dangerous periods of a flight. It’s in your own interest to be aware of your surroundings at this time. If there was a crash then you need to be able to hear the flight attendant and not be in your own bubble listing to music on your noise canceling headphones.
So even if the flight attendant doesn’t say so it’s a good idea to wait until you are up in the air before you switch on your movie.
Christian checked with United about the use of Bluetooth in the cabin:
United gave the green light but as per usual will not be able to connect Bluetooth devices with the seatback entertainment.
How To Use Wireless Headphones On A Plane
So it’s really quite simple.
Firstly put your phone or device into airplane mode. This will turn off telephony (cellular connection, cellular data), wifi, and Bluetooth.
You can then turn on Wifi or Bluetooth as required. Switching on Bluetooth does not take your cell phone out of flight mode.
As you can see above, all airlines allow Bluetooth in the United States. Some airlines may require you not to use headphones during take off and landing. This is to make sure you are ready in case of an emergency.
There is some speculation that the radio frequency signal of your device can interfere with the plane’s equipment and be potentially dangerous.
Let’s be real. If turning off airplane mode made it likely your plane would malfunction there would be no way the TSA would let anyone bring a cell phone on a plane!
If you want to understand the real reason cell phones are not permitted during flights then check out this video:
Passengers shouting into phones during flights would be incredibly annoying. Just like it is when people do it on trains!
Planes won’t fall out of the sky because of someone using their cell, but cabins are a lot more peaceful and harmonious without cell phone conversations taking place.
So long may the ban on using phones on planes continue!
So It All Adds Up To This
You can use Bluetooth devices on planes but don’t use them during takeoff and landing, wait until you are above 10,000 feet.
At the present moment you probably can’t use wireless headphones with the seatback in flight entertainment system.
Passengers should keep flight mode turned on so their cellular data is off.
Make sure you charge up your batteries before you travel!