Flying's hard enough. Having access to devices that make it more comfortable is a wonderful thing, and many of those devices – such as wireless earbuds or earphones, smart watches and wireless keyboards – depend on bluetooth technology. In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave its approval for airplane passengers to use bluetooth devices. It's up to each airline to set its own rules regarding bluetooth use, but don't worry about your beloved noise-canceling headphones or Apple Airpods being banished to the overhead compartment. Most airlines allow passengers to use bluetooth devices during flight.
Where Different Airlines Land on Use of Bluetooth Devices
Major American airlines usually allow passengers to use bluetooth devices in the air, but they don't all specifically address bluetooth use in their policies. Carriers such as JetBlue, Southwest, United Airlines, and Delta tell travelers that they may use wireless accessories like bluetooth headphones and keyboards during flight as long as they’re on flight mode, meaning any cellular service is deactivated and they’re using wi-fi instead. However, don't expect to use bluetooth devices that connect to a tablet or laptop during takeoff or landing. Airline rules say these electronics have to be stowed and turned off at the beginning and ending of a flight, so you’ll only be able to connect to your portable electronic devices like mobile phones during this part of the air travel.
International airlines have their own rules about bluetooth accessories and personal electronics. British Airways allows passengers to use devices with bluetooth connection during flight but not during taxiing, takeoff or landing. Air Canada allows bluetooth earbuds or bluetooth headsets, but only once the plane has reached at least 10,000 feet and only if the battery is removable from the gadgets. The carrier won't allow a passenger to use a wireless mouse at all. Lufthansa allows travelers to use bluetooth headphones during the entire flight, even during takeoff and landing.
Using Bluetooth Devices in Flight
Even if the airline allows passengers to use bluetooth devices during flight, be mindful of the fact that using cellular data is still forbidden. Bluetooth devices and the electronics you connect them to must be switched to airplane mode. If switching the device to airplane mode doesn't allow you to connect via bluetooth, manually turning off cellular service might be a workable alternative.
Also keep in mind that traveling with bluetooth headphones won't allow you to connect to the airplane's entertainment system, if it has one. These headphones also run on battery power. If the battery dies before the flight ends, you might be stuck sitting in silence. Stash a pair of cheap wired earbuds in your carry-on bag to use during flight; then switch back to high-quality wireless headphones once you're back on the ground.
You won’t be able to use your bluetooth speaker on flights regardless of other rules – playing your music or shows out loud is never allowed! Opt for some wireless bluetooth headphones instead or use a good old-fashioned headphone jack to play your tunes from your iPhone or cell phone!
Beware of Future Changes
Airline policies about using electronics in flight change over time as technology changes. And like all airline policies, the rules for using bluetooth capability during flight are subject to change at any time. Assume your bluetooth devices are allowed, but ask a flight attendant for specific guidance if you're unsure.