Are Bluetooth Devices allowed on planes? (Solved)
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You are excited about your new vacation but wonder if you can carry your favorite Bluetooth headphones or other devices on the plane?
In general terms, you are allowed to bring your Bluetooth devices on flights. But even though the FAA approved the use of Bluetooth devices in 2013, each airline has its own Bluetooth usage rules.
This article will explain all the rules and varieties to make sure you are as prepared as possible.
I will go through why there are different regulations and why airlines apply different rules and list the rules of some of the largest airlines. I will also explain the specific rules for devices with Lithium batteries and spare batteries and how the different airlines are applying these regulations.
You will also get to know how to handle airport security, use Bluetooth Headphones on an airplane, and use the airline’s entertainment systems. Let’s dive in.
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Why Airline Companies have different rules
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has restricted Portable Electronic Device (PED) usage on planes due to wireless interference.
However, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) allows airlines to make their own decisions on Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Most airlines allow their customers to use the device but with different restrictions.
They set the limits because they don’t want the aircraft’s communication and navigation systems to be interfered with or compromised by these devices. Bluetooth devices like headphones, keyboards, and speakers are classified as short-range interference, and the effect on the planes will be minimal.
Although the risk of interference affecting the plane is minimal, the different airlines will handle this risk differently.
There are also other aspects to why airlines set different rules. One is social behaviors.
If you can’t listen to music or other entertainment to keep calm, you are more likely to talk to other passengers or the staff. This behavior can lead up to passengers getting annoyed or express annoying behaviors.
Many airlines will allow the use of Bluetooth devices to keep the cabin calmer.
Later in this post, I have made a list of allowed Bluetooth headphones and earbuds you can use on your flights.
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What kind of differences are there between airlines?
Since each local and international airline has its regulations regarding Bluetooth devices, they vary greatly and are not easy to track.
Here are some of the most seen regulations where Bluetooth Headphones or earbuds are allowed:
- only when the plane reaches 10,000 feet
- only devices with removable batteries
- only during the flight after the seatbelt light is off; not when taking off or landing
- some have unlimited usage when taking off, during the flight, and landing.
- some won’t allow any use of Bluetooth devices
You should also note that the riskiest times for an airplane are landing, taxiing, and taking off. Therefore, you should carefully check your surroundings during these times.
Airlines don’t want a situation where travelers are stuck and vulnerable in tricky situations. For instance, some airlines prohibited noise-canceling earbuds because travelers may not hear lifesaving instructions if there is an incident or dangerous situation.
Even though you can use Bluetooth headphones on the airline, it’s good to know that you can be affected by international regulations.
If you are traveling to China, as an example, you can use your headphones (if the airline allows them) until you reach the Chinese air border. You cannot use these devices in China, so you will be asked to turn them off.
To ensure maximum safety in the plane, you need to turn on flight mode when the aircraft is taxiing, taking off, or landing.
Putting on Flight mode switches off the communication systems of your phone, such as Bluetooth and the internet. Some devices allow you to turn on Bluetooth even when in flight mode.
To be sure, I would recommend carrying an additional set of wired earphones. If you have an adapter, you can connect to the plane’s entertainment system or your phone if you are not allowed to use the Bluetooth device. It will at least keep you entertained during the flight.
Summary of Bluetooth regulations on different airlines
Air Canada allows Bluetooth devices only when the plane reaches 10,000 feet. And these devices must have removable batteries to be allowed to use.
Alaska Air does not permit the usage of noise-canceling headphones when taking off or during landing. You can use them during the flight after the seatbelt sign is switch off.
American Airlines allows the use of Bluetooth headphones on their flights. However, the entertainment seatback screens are not compatible with Bluetooth, so you need to bring your own content during the flight or connect to the airline app on your phone.
For this airline, they have not mentioned on their website that they permit Bluetooth headphones. However, their Twitter customer service responded to a query from a customer and said that they allow Bluetooth devices. They don’t have Wi-Fi onboard, so you should download your music or videos before boarding.
For British Airways, you can use your Bluetooth devices during the flight but not when taking off or during landing.
There is no clear information on whether wireless headphones are allowed on Delta planes. However, they said that Bluetooth devices are not on the list of prohibited electronic devices. This suggests that they allow Bluetooth devices on board.
However, you cannot connect your Bluetooth device to their entertainment systems, so you need to bring wired earphones or a Bluetooth adapter for you to enjoy music from their entertainment systems.
JetBlue allows the use of wireless devices in their planes. However, you will need to use wired headphones to enjoy their entertainment system.
Frontier has not offered any information on their website on whether they permit the use of Bluetooth devices.
Southwest Airlines allow passengers to use Bluetooth headphones. But any use of these devices during landing or take-off is not permitted. The seatbelt sign will inform you each time you are supposed to turn on or off the Bluetooth devices.
This airline permits the use of Bluetooth devices, but as with other airlines, you cannot connect them directly to the seatback entertainment system. You can use a Bluetooth adapter or wired earbuds to enjoy these systems.
Lufthansa, Ryanair and Air France
If you travel with one of these airlines, you can use your Bluetooth devices during the whole flight, even when taking off or landing.
Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways
With Emirates and Qatar, you are allowed to use your Bluetooth devices when in the air. During taxi, approach, take-off, and landing, you need to switch off the devices.
What kind of battery restrictions are there on airplanes?
Regulations for Personal Electric Devices (PED) with Lithium batteries
Most of your everyday devices like Bluetooth Headphones, smartphones, cameras, laptops, and other Bluetooth devices contain Lithium batteries.
The FAA has made some restrictions regarding Lithium batteries for flights because there is a risk of these batteries catching fire if they are damaged or if battery terminals are short-circuited.
The main direction is to keep these devices in the carry-on, but you are not prohibited from packing them in the checked-in baggage.
The FAA has stated that if you pack these devices in checked baggage, you have to turn them completely off and protect them from accidental activation. You must pack them in a way that keeps them protected from damage.
Although FAA doesn’t restrict you from packing the device in checked-in baggage, some airlines might. So do check with your airline before travel.
All checked-in baggage goes through screening, and there is a much higher risk that security will go through your luggage if these items show up. So if you want to reduce the risk of security going through your bags, bring your Bluetooth devices in your carry-on.
Regulations for spare lithium batteries
Even though your Bluetooth devices with Lithium batteries can be checked in, spare batteries are not allowed in checked-in baggage.
You have to bring spare lithium batteries with you in your carry-on.
The main reason why you have to bring it in your carry-on is that cabin crew and passengers inside the plane can mitigate the incidence in case of smoke or fire is detected.
The airlines can be very strict when checking spare batteries because of the risk of overheating or catching on fire.
If the battery is damaged, defective, or recalled, you cannot bring it on the plane at all.
Even when packed in your carry-on baggage, you should make sure that spare batteries are protected by the manufacturer’s packaging or covered with tape and placed in separate bags to prevent short circuits. If you are not packing these batteries safely, you may risk security taking them away when you go through security check-in.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Summary of battery restrictions on different Airlines
Here is a summary of what battery restrictions some of the airlines have at the time of writing. Before you travel, please check if they have made changes to their restrictions. I have provided you with links in each paragraph so click the airline’s name to get directly to their regulations.
United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines
If you are traveling with United Airlines, American Airlines, or Delta Airlines, you can pack Bluetooth devices with lithium batteries with less than 100Wh (Watt Hours) in both checked and carry-on bags.
You are not allowed to pack spare/loose lithium batteries in checked bags. If you want to bring loose batteries in your carry-on bags, you have to pack them individually to prevent short-circuiting.
For spare batteries, you can usually pack up to two batteries with a maximum of 160Wh each. But make sure that the terminals are appropriately covered or insulated.
Southwest Airlines, Air Canada
When traveling by Southwest Airlines or Air Canada, you can bring up to 20 spare batteries and 15 with Air Canada. But this includes both portable chargers and external battery charges for phones and laptops and a maximum of two lithium batteries with a maximum 160Wh.
You are only allowed to pack these items in your carry-on and in a way to prevent short-circuiting. If you have batteries with exposed terminals, you can put tape on them to cover them.
British Airways and Emirates Airlines
With British Airways and Emirates Airlines, you can pack up to 15 personal electronic devices using lithium batteries in your carry-on. But make sure they are safely packed to prevent accidental activation.
You can bring up to 4 spare batteries (including power banks) but with a maximum of 100Wh, which is less than the big American airlines. You have to pack these in your carry-on.
Make sure that your spare batteries are marked with watt-hours (Wh) or volts and amps. If you cannot determine the watt-hours of the battery, you cannot bring it on board.
British Airways are also very strict on recalled devices. As an example, Apple has recalled the Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro due to a safety issue. You are still allowed to bring one of these devices in your cabin baggage, but the device must be switched off and not recharged as long as you are on board the plane.
How to calculate Watt Hours (Wh)
Volts x Amps = Watt Hours (Wh)
Can you use noise-cancelling on planes?
With most airlines, you are allowed to use noise-canceling headphones during flights. But there are some restrictions.
Many airlines prohibit the use during taxing, take-off, and landing. In these situations, there are regular flight announcements that you need to listen to. With noise-cancelling headphones, you are usually in your own world of music, movie, or podcast and the risk of you not getting important messages is high.
Some airlines will not allow you to use noise-canceling, but that is rarer nowadays.
But even if you are allowed to use noise-canceling during the flight, please be aware of your surroundings. It would be nice to get the message of heavy turbulence if that should occur during the flight.
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How to Handle Airport Security with Bluetooth devices?
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has indicated specific regulations for screening electronics. They have recommended that you store the electronics so that the authorities can easily access them when screening.
Additionally, you can buy a TSA-compliant lock for bags that contains wireless devices and accessories to deter theft.
And if you are transporting them in a carry-on bag, they should be large enough for separate screening.
I would also recommend you to join the TSA-precheck program. It is ideal for regular travelers, and you won’t need to unpack your devices when going through airport screening. But Lithium batteries are bound by special regulations, and you need to remove them from your checked luggage and store them in the carry-on bag.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a U.S. government program that allows travelers deemed low-risk by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agency, to pass through an expedited security screening process at certain U.S. airports. Source: Investopedia.
Popular devices like laptops, cameras, and other electronic devices also contain rechargeable lithium batteries, so bring them in your carry-on. It’s always a hassle to be pulled aside, so don’t give the security reasons for searching your checked-in bag.
TSA advises travelers to prepare for TSA screenings to avoid issues and delays when getting their PEDs through checkpoints. Once you follow the rules, TSA won’t confiscate your Bluetooth devices.
Can I bring a Bluetooth speaker in the carry-on?
As long as your airline accepts that you bring Bluetooth devices on board, you can pack your Bluetooth speakers in the carry-on. Most airlines do, and you can look at the summary I have made from the airlines earlier in this post.
If the Bluetooth speaker is large, you should consider if it fits in your carry-on. The standard size of a carry-on bag should not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters, including handles and wheels.
You should also consider how large the battery is. If the speaker uses a Lithium battery, you cannot bring the device if the battery exceeds 100Wh (watt-hours). Take a look at the summary above to check the different regulations.
Can I pack a Bluetooth speaker in checked baggage?
As long as the batteries are installed, which means that the terminals are not exposed, you can pack the device in checked luggage. Spare batteries are not allowed in checked baggage, as explained in the battery section above.
If you are packing your speaker in checked baggage, be prepared for the risk of unfaithful servants. Bluetooth devices packed in checked baggage are often gone missing. So I would recommend bringing your devices in your carry-on, as long as you have room for it.
Why it’s essential to update yourself on restrictions
If it’s been a long time since the last time you traveled, then you should know that the rules may have changed. Therefore, you need to check the latest restrictions on the use of Bluetooth devices in the plane. Luckily, the high pressure from the public and the advent of modern radio transmission capabilities have made airlines update their PED regulations.
Until September 2019, FAA had put strict restrictions on Bluetooth devices. And for that reason, many airlines were banning the use of such devices in aircraft. For example, Qatar Airways and Emirates did not allow any use of Bluetooth devices on their flights, but now they do after FAA lifted their restrictions.
Also, national or international events may lead to temporary or permanent changes in regulations, like the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Additionally, as the technology changes over time, different airlines could permit or restrict Bluetooth devices and other electronics in aircraft. Therefore, the Bluetooth rules are subject to change at any time, like airline policies.
Before you start traveling, check with your airline if your favorite Bluetooth devices are allowed. You will usually find the information you need if you google, e.g., “American Airlines Bluetooth regulation”.
How to use Wireless Headphones on an Airplane
If you want to use Bluetooth headphones during your flight, you often need to put your device into flight mode (airplane mode).
Doing so will turn the cellular data off, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. After flight mode is activated, you can now turn on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi based on your needs. Most phones allow you to switch on Bluetooth without turning the flight mode off.
Can you use your Bluetooth headphones with the Airline’s entertainment system?
If you are traveling internationally, then Airlines usually offer various forms of entertainment. You can listen to music, podcasts, or watch movies during your flight time, and you can use your Bluetooth headphones for these purposes. But you will likely need an adapter. I’ll explain:
The entertainment systems in the plane are often either;
- A screen which is located in the ceiling on every 3-5 seat row. You can connect wired earphones from your seat to get sound. In this system, everyone has to watch the same video.
- Seatback screens on every seat. Here you can choose for yourself what you want to listen to or watch. You can connect your earphones directly to the entertainment system with a wire.
However, you have no guarantee that these entertainment systems have the latest technology. So you might not be able to connect your Bluetooth devices directly.
Also, note that some airlines provide headphones for free, but the quality is not the best. It’s not ideal for audio enthusiasts who love listening to high-quality audio. On the other hand, some airlines sell headphones onboard, and though they may not be the best, they are better than nothing.
If you want to listen to the sound with your headphones, you have two options:
- Connect your headphones with the AUX input plug. Click here to see how it looks.
- Connect with a Bluetooth adapter. Click here to see how it looks.
I would recommend buying a Bluetooth transmitter/ receiver to help you connect your headphones to the entertainment system with a two-pin input.
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The kit has a 3.5 mm conversion on one end to enable you to plug in your device in transmitter mode and connect the Bluetooth headphones. Besides, you can connect more than two Bluetooth headphones to a transmitter meaning many people can watch the same movie on different headphones.
Airlines like American airlines have entertainment apps that you can use to enjoy your flight time. They are available from major app stores and can be connected via Wi-Fi. With this app, you won’t need any hacks to use Bluetooth headphones. But not all airlines offer this, and you may need Bluetooth transmitters to use your wireless devices.
Additionally, it would help if you brought devices with long battery life or carry a charger. I would also recommend taking some wired buds along your trip just if your wireless companions fail you.
Regardless of where you want to visit, it’s always a good idea to carry extra headphones. You might need them later and also carry the right adapters. Luckily, they are reasonably priced, easy to find, and it’s best to prepare in advance.
Allowed Bluetooth devices on planes
With the majority of airlines, you are allowed to bring your personal electric device (PED). This includes:
- Apple Airpods (including Airpods Pro and Airpods Max)
- Bluetooth Headphones
- Bluetooth Earbuds
- Bluetooth Speakers
- Bluetooth keyboards
Most airlines allow you to bring and use Bluetooth devices on the plane. But be aware that there are different rules on when you are allowed to use them. In some airlines, you can use them during the whole flight, and in some, you cannot use them during taxi, take-off, or landing. A few are not allowing Bluetooth devices at all.
You are, in most cases, allowed to pack Bluetooth devices (also those with Lithium batteries) in both carry-on and checked baggage. But remember that there is a high risk of someone stealing your device if packed in checked baggage.
Spare batteries are only allowed in the carry-on, and you should pack them carefully to prevent short-circuiting.
If you want to connect your device to a phone, tablet, or laptop, remember to enable flight mode (airplane mode) and then turn Bluetooth back on.
On international travel, most airlines have their own entertainment system. To connect your Bluetooth headphones to these systems, you need either; a 2-pin adapter for a wired connection or a Bluetooth adapter to connect wirelessly.
Have a wonderful journey and travel safely.
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Espen is the Director of ProPairing and has written extensively about Bluetooth devices for years. He is a consumer product expert and has personally tested Bluetooth devices for the last decade.