Can You Use Bluetooth on a Plane? (A Flight Attendant Answers)
Can You Use Bluetooth on a Plane?
You can use Bluetooth devices on a plane. The only time Bluetooth is not permitted to be used is during take-off and landing. Additionally, no Bluetooth headphones are allowed to be worn during the safety briefing. Wireless Bluetooth headphones are rarely compatible directly with inflight entertainment systems, but you can still use them for your own electronics.
Using Bluetooth devices on a plane is something that can cause confusion for many people, and it is difficult to find clear-cut answers. This article will explain how and when you can use other Bluetooth devices during your flight. I will also explain how to get your Bluetooth headphones to connect to most inflight entertainment systems.
As a former flight attendant, I have used Bluetooth devices on many different kinds of planes and have a thorough understanding of the rules and foibles of using Bluetooth on a plane.
Table of Contents
- Do Bluetooth Devices Work on Planes?
- Does Bluetooth Work in Airplane Mode?
- How to use Bluetooth Headphones on a Plane to Watch In Flight Entertainment Systems
- Why can’t you use your Bluetooth headphones during takeoff?
- FAQs About Using Bluetooth on a Plane
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Do Bluetooth Devices Work on Planes?
Bluetooth devices like Bluetooth headphones connected to a personal tablet, laptop or phone will work on a plane. An easy way to confirm your device will work on an airplane is to put your device on airplane mode and turn on Bluetooth.
If you are hoping to use Bluetooth headphones to connect to in flight entertainment that is where you might run into problems.
Most in flight entertainment systems are not compatible with Bluetooth headphones but will have a standard headphone jack. Some airplanes still have an old two-prong headphone jack in which case it might be useful to purchase a converter like the one listed below.
This is also a useful purchase if you are planning to bring wired headphones, as it will make sure you can use your own headphones during the flight.
Using devices like wireless keyboards and mice is permitted on planes once the plane hits cruising altitude. Your cue that you are at cruising altitude is usually the seatbelt sign is turned off by the pilots.
Occasionally you will get a captain who turns off the seatbelt sign a bit early, but once that light is turned off you are allowed to set up your table, use the washroom and the inflight entertainment system will be turned back on. This is normally when I start using Bluetooth headphones.
This product is super useful when you are flying on older aircraft. It takes up almost no space in your carry on and can be an absolute lifesaver on long flights.
If you are an avid user of Apple devices then you will already be familiar with dongles. You will need to think about purchasing a headphone jack converter if you want to plug it into the inflight entertainment system.
As a flight attendant, one of the things I noticed is that Apple users struggled more to connect to inflight entertainment systems because of their dependency on Bluetooth devices. Airpods rapidly became the Bluetooth headphones that caused the most headaches. They connect great to the Apple devices that they are designed for. In flight entertainment systems….not so much.
The easiest way to get around this is to purchase a small Bluetooth transmitter. These small devices plug into the standard headphone jack available on most planes and convert the inflight entertainment into a Bluetooth signal. The nice thing about these is that they work great on short-range Bluetooth devices and are not dependent on wifi connectivity.
Make sure you try out this device at home first so you can troubleshoot any problems before you are in the middle of the flight trying to work out how to use it.
This product will allow you to use Bluetooth headphones with most inflight entertainment systems. It plugs directly into the headphone jack and will transmit the signal to your wireless headphones.
Does Bluetooth Work in Airplane Mode?
Bluetooth will continue to work with most devices in airplane mode. Airplane mode will block access to data and mobile networks which is why it’s required on airplanes as these networks interfere with aircraft communications systems.
Bluetooth, on the other hand, is a short range network that does not interfere with airplane communications so is fine to use at cruising altitude during the flight. On older devices you may have to go in and manually turn Bluetooth back on once you have activated airplane mode, but it will still work.
How to use Bluetooth Headphones on a Plane to Watch In Flight Entertainment Systems
You will need up to two devices to connect to any inflight entertainment system. You might need a two-prong converter and will likely need a Bluetooth transmitter. Another thing to check before is if the airline has an entertainment app.
For example, United Airlines has an app you can download on any device to watch movies on your own devices. Many airlines increasingly have this option so check on this before you head to the airport. It also may be required to have the app in order to connect to inflight wifi.
See our article on the best noise canceling headphones for flights for more.
A quick note on in flight wifi. Do not depend on the wifi connection for your entertainment or count on getting work done while you are in the air. This technology is still new enough on planes that many airlines haven’t worked out all the kinks, and many planes have older attempts to bring wifi onboard. Inflight wifi is the least reliable wifi connection you will ever experience so take that into consideration.
The good news is that the inflight entertainment systems are separate from the wifi network so those systems are far more reliable. Still, my advice to everyone taking a flight longer than 45 minutes is always the same, bring a book. They cannot run out of battery life and will work on any plane.
Newer or recently renovated planes will have USB ports for charging your devices but I always bring a battery pack with me just in case.
For more, check out my carry on packing tip article.
Most popular airlines like United Airlines or American Airlines have large libraries attached to their inflight entertainment system. Specific airlines will have different rules and entertainment specifications.
Most airlines have apps now. Notable exceptions are budget airlines like Spirit Airlines which provide wifi for a fee and do have an app for checking in but no traditional inflight entertainment system. American Airlines has an app you need to download as do United Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
Why can’t you use your Bluetooth headphones during takeoff?
Take off and landing are phases of flights in which it’s particularly important to be able to hear directions from the flight crew, these are called “critical stages.” During these times the Federal Aviation Administration (in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association) has rules in place to minimize distractions. In Flight entertainment systems will often be turned off and Bluetooth headphones of any type are not permitted.
Well, the reason for minimizing distractions during this time is that it is important to be able to follow directions from the flight crew quickly and efficiently during these phases of flight. During this time it is possible that directions will only be issued once and you do not want to miss them because you have your wireless headphones on.
FAQs About Using Bluetooth on a Plane
Can Bluetooth be Used in Airplane Mode?
Bluetooth works in airplane mode because it’s a short-range signal and generally does not interfere with airplane communication systems. This is why you are allowed to use Bluetooth on a plane.
Can you Connect Bluetooth Headphones on a Plane?
You can use Bluetooth headphones on a plane to connect to your own device. To connect to the inflight entertainment system you will need a Bluetooth transmitter and possibly a two-prong converter on older planes.
Can I Use AirPods on a Plane?
Airpods can be used to connect to your personal Apple devices during the flight. Like most other Bluetooth headphones they will not connect directly with the inflight entertainment system. You will need to purchase a Bluetooth transmitter that is compatible with your AirPods and possibly a two-prong converter.
That is everything you need to know about using a Bluetooth device including wireless headphones on a plane.
If you are looking for more information on what to pack on your next flight check my article about What can I Carry in my Purse on a Plane?