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How to use your AirPods on a plane
As much as people enjoy Apple’s AirPods around the home or gym, taking them on a plane can be a different matter, no matter how far you’re planning to travel. Here’s what you need to know about flying with AirPods, including some tips to make the experience smooth.
Can you use your AirPods on a plane?
Yes, you can. While carry-on regulations are going to vary from country to country, you’d be hard-pressed to find a region where AirPods aren’t allowed.
They do, of course, have to be screened like any other possession, especially since they’re portable electronic devices with batteries and wireless antennas. But their batteries are easily small enough to comply with regulations, and their wireless functions are limited to Bluetooth and UWB (ultra wideband). Governments and airlines are generally only concerned with cellular, and even then attitudes are (very slowly) relaxing.
In the US and Canada, at least, you’re not required to take AirPods out of a bag or suitcase during security line screening. You might be asked to take them out under some circumstances, and screening crews might take them out personally if they’re suspicious, but these incidents are the exception rather than the norm.
Some airlines may ask you to avoid using AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones during takeoff and landing. This is up to companies rather than being government regulation, however, and you’ll be given a heads-up by a captain or flight attendant.
Tips for using your AirPods on a plane
Some of these tips may seem obvious, but the idea here is to provide a quick checklist before you start flying with AirPods for the first time.
Doublecheck that Bluetooth is on
Whenever you activate an iPhone or iPad’s Airplane Mode, Bluetooth should stay on by default. But if you turned Bluetooth off during a previous flight, it’ll go off again the next time Airplane Mode is used, which can be confusing. Remember, there’s no reason to deactivate Bluetooth on a plane, and you’ll need it not just for AirPods but accessories like smartwatches.
Charge before your flight
While you might be able to get around this with the next step, as a rule, you’ll save yourself some hassle if you make sure your AirPods are fully charged before getting to the airport, or at least before you step on your plane. On shorter trips, you’ll be able to use your AirPods both at the gate and in-flight without worries. Whenever you’re going cross-continent or overseas, you’ll get the maximum listening time possible.
Bring a charging cable in your carry-on
Many planes now have USB-A or even USB-C charging ports for each seat in case you need to top up. Even if you don’t plan to charge mid-flight, you may need to take advantage of power at other places, such as terminals, hotels, or conference centers.
Stash your AirPods somewhere safe but accessible
It can be tempting to toss your AirPods anywhere in your carry-on bag, especially if you’re running late, but it’s no fun digging them out from under other belongings while you’re sitting in a cramped airplane seat. Put them in an easily-accessible bag pocket if you can.
At the same time, be sure that your AirPods are secure, wherever you put them. If there’s a chance your case might fall out or pop open, you probably need to rethink where you’re putting them. That’s less of an issue with the AirPods Max, naturally, but even those could get lost in a mad rush for your next flight. The last thing you need is your AirPods getting lost in Amsterdam when you’re back in Austin.
Check support for in-flight entertainment systems
Some airlines — like American, United, and Southwest — support connecting AirPods to in-flight entertainment systems. This can vary from plane to plane even when a company offers the feature, however, so you’ll have to check the individual details of each flight. In fact we wouldn’t count on it, since by the time you’re in the air, you might not feel like tinkering with connections anyway. It’s usually easiest to download a few movies or shows pre-flight.
Yes. The only technology AirPods need to stream audio is Bluetooth.
In some cases, yes. Airlines like American, United, and Southwest support pairing AirPods on compatible planes. You’re out of luck on planes that use a wired stereo jack, unless perhaps you’ve brought a Bluetooth adapter that will plug in.
Yes. Some airlines will ask you to avoid using them during takeoff and landing, but this is out of excessive caution on their end.