AirPods are one of Apple’s most loved gadgets, and you can see them everywhere. If you spot someone sporting white, wireless earbuds, they’re likely AirPods.
Traveling and exploring new places are my things.
So when I got my AirPods, I wondered, “ can you use AirPods on a plane?” Let’s find out.
Can you use AirPods on a plane?
Yes, you can indeed use AirPods on a plane.
In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) suggested airlines to allow passengers to use Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs)—which include AirPods—throughout the flight.
And AirPods are considered PEDs.
However, the airlines have the final say. The FAA only provides guidelines; it’s the airlines that determine what PEDs passengers can use and when.
What are Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs)?
The FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) explains that Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) are any piece of lightweight, electrically-powered equipment.
They further clarify that these gadgets are usually consumer electronics, like laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even earbuds like AirPods, which can communicate, process data, or provide some sort of utility.
Interestingly, the FAA started setting rules for using PEDs on planes way back in 1966. This regulation was based on studies they did between 1958 and 1961.
Back in the day, passengers enjoyed bringing portable FM radios on their flights. However, the FAA found that these little radios could mess with the plane’s navigation systems.
Why did the FAA allow expanded use of PEDs on planes?
Airplane tech and PEDs are constantly changing and improving. Over the years, the FAA has done quite a few studies on this very topic.
In 2013, they published a report about allowing more use of PEDs during flights. They found out that most of today’s commercial airplanes can handle a little interference from PEDs without a hitch.
So, they suggested passengers should be able to use their PEDs throughout their whole flight.
How do you use AirPods on a plane?
If you want to use your AirPods on a plane, your phone has to be in airplane mode.
The FAA hasn’t changed its rule about using cellular data during a flight – it’s still a no-no. Why? Because cell phones emit stronger radio signals compared to other PEDs, and these could interfere with the plane’s systems.
According to the FAA, once your device is in airplane mode, you’re good to go. If the plane offers Wi-Fi and gives you the green light to use it, feel free to connect. You can continue using short-range Bluetooth accessories like your AirPods.
Just remember to switch on airplane mode first, and then turn on Bluetooth.
Do domestic airlines allow the use of AirPods at every phase of flight?
Well, the FAA has encouraged airlines to let passengers use PEDs more freely. However, the final call is with the airlines; they’re the ones who lay down their individual policies.
Presently, all of the top 10 US domestic airlines permit the in-flight use of AirPods. But, only one out of these ten does not allow gate-to-gate use of PEDs.
So, what does gate-to-gate mean? It means you can keep your AirPods in during all phases of the flight, including taxiing, takeoff, and landing.
Let’s check out the PED policies of the top 10 US domestic airlines:
|You may use small portable electronic devices during all phases of the flight provided they are in “airplane/game” mode, unless the Captain directs the devices to be turned off.
|You can use your cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices onboard until advised by the flight crew, but phone calls aren’t allowed during flight.
|Allowed, in-flight crew members will notify when safe to use.
|Laptops, portable movie players, portable music players, and other approved devices can be used onboard the aircraft. The in-flight crew members will notify all passengers when it is safe to use these devices.
|Delta Air Lines
|Allows domestic customers continued use of portable electronic devices while in airplane mode from gate to gate.
|Passengers can use personal electronic devices in “airplane mode” during all phases of flight.
|You may use portable electronic devices from departure gate to arrival gate on our domestic and most phases of our international routes.
|Portable Electronic Device use will be allowed on JetBlue aircraft during all phases of flight, including taxi, take-off, cruise, and landing except during certain low-visibility landings.
|Customers may use small portable electronic devices (PEDs) in “airplane mode” from gate to gate.
|Small authorized PEDs like tablets, readers, and mobile phones may be used during all phases of flight including taxi, take-off, and landing.
|Within the U.S. (including U.S. territories), travelers may use permitted small, lightweight portable electronic devices in non-cellular transmitting mode at all times.
Keep in mind that nearly all of these policies apply mainly to flights within the US.
Take, for example, this advisory from Alaska Airlines to their passengers:
“Due to foreign government regulations, small electronic devices and short-range Bluetooth accessories are prohibited from use below 10,000 feet, and must be turned off and stowed on descent into and on takeoff from Mexico.”
So, remember, different countries have their own aviation authorities and regulations, and they may not follow the FAA’s guidelines for using PEDs on planes.
Can you use AirPods with the in-flight entertainment system?
Unfortunately, most in-flight entertainment systems lack Bluetooth capability.
To date, only United Airlines offers Bluetooth for their in-flight system, and that’s currently only on their 737 Max 8 jets.
Delta Air Lines is still in the testing phase.
For most other systems, you’ll need a Bluetooth adapter—a simple device you plug into the entertainment system’s socket and then pair with your AirPods.
If you don’t have a Bluetooth adapter, you’ll need to use the wired headphones provided by the airline, or bring an extra set with a headphone jack.
Do you have to take your AirPods out during airport security checks?
Nope, you’re good.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says you only need to remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bags.
And the TSA is cool with you carrying AirPods in both your checked and carry-on luggage.
But that’s the rule in the US.
If you’re traveling internationally, the rules may vary, so it’s worth doing a quick check before you go.
Yes, you can totally use your AirPods on a plane.
Since 2013, the FAA has been more relaxed about PED use, as long as your phone is in airplane mode and you’re using short-range Bluetooth accessories like AirPods.
Almost all of the leading US domestic airlines allow AirPods use from gate-to-gate, but check individual policies if you’re flying abroad.
The TSA is okay with AirPods in both checked and carry-on luggage, and you don’t need to take them out during security checks.
Traveling by plane any time soon? Planning to use your AirPods? Drop a comment below and let me know your plans!