Ask LH: Can I Use My Wireless Headset On A Plane?

Ask LH: Can I Use My Wireless Headset On A Plane?
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Dear Lifehacker, I will be travelling overseas in the next few months, and I was wondering if my Sennheiser RS160 wireless headphones can be used on the flight. I can’t seem to see any official information prohibiting their use. So can I use my headphones? Or will they have to wait for me back home? Thanks, Listening Intently

Headphones picture from Shutterstock

Dear LI,

You should be fine. We haven’t yet reached the point where you can use electronic devices during take-off and landing for flights exiting Australia, so you won’t be able to deploy your headphones until after you’ve reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign is off. However, after that point you’ll be fine to use the headphones until you begin descending. (At that point, airlines ban any headsets other than their own, as you might not hear safety information otherwise.)

In the past, you might have encountered the odd airline which argued against the usage of any sort of wireless transmission on board, but that’s unlikely to be an issue now. With domestic airlines using in-flight Wi-Fi to share entertainment and many US airlines offering onboard internet access, it’s become clear that small devices using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or their own transmission system won’t mess with onboard communication systems.

I’ve seen plenty of people using wireless headphones (and Bluetooth keyboards) on flights, so enjoy the music. Just make sure your playback device is charged, and that you have a USB charging cable to hand if your airline offers one. Enjoy the trip!


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  • Airlines don’t ban any headphones other than their own – you’re quite welcome to use your own headphones during takeoff and landing, as long as they are plugged in to the airline’s inflight entertainment system.

  • I honestly can’t see how you can use them on an Australian domestic flight. If the airline are demanding all electronic equipment is in flight mode, flight mode will turn your bluetooth off

    • @tim_ruttter: Agreed, it’s against the rules.

      But as LH said, I wouldn’t say you “can’t” use them, or that it would be dangerous to do so.

      I would say that doing so would be disobeying the polite request made by the flight staff.

      • See tha’ts the confusing thing about Virgins new inflight entertainment

        Your device has to be in flight mode, but to access their system you need to turn your wifi on

        I guess what they really mean is to turn off the phone mode

  • Of course you can use them. If all it took was the signal from a over-the-counter consumer electronics device to crash a plane, we’d be in real trouble.

    There are two reasons why you’re asked to turn them off:
    1. Most airline crashes are on takeoff and landing. If something goes wrong, the flight crew don’t want you distracted by your electronic device.
    2. Mobile phones make can cause that annoying noise you sometimes hear through your car radio in the pilot’s ear over his radio. This is the piece of “navigation equipment” that your electronic devices “interfere with”.

    Your WiFi, Bluetooth, IR, 2GHz or 5GHz RF devices are fine. The trouble is, there are so many different devices the airlines can’t test all of them and rule them save. Unsurprisingly, they take the conservative approach.

    Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools.

  • Its worth bearing in mind “Passengers are required by the Civil Aviation Regulations to follow the directions of the crew on the use and stowage of items in the cabin”. Choosing to break the law is your choice of course but I’m not sure it makes you wise

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