Everyone knows you’re supposed to turn on Airplane mode and stow your electronics away during takeoff and landing. But what about Bluetooth? Is watching something on your phone in Airplane Mode with Bluetooth headphones allowed? The reality is that even though it won’t cause any issues, some airlines won’t allow you to do that.
You Can Use Bluetooth on Planes, but Not All the Time
Most airlines allow you to use Bluetooth devices during the flight. This includes laptops, smartphones, tablets, wireless keyboards and mouses, and Bluetooth headphones.
But the exact rules for when you can use Bluetooth devices and when you have to stow them away depend on each airline. Some allow using them during all stages of the flight. And some only when the seatbelt signs have been turned off.
Only two airlines don’t allow using Bluetooth devices on a few of their flights – Air Canada and Air France. But this is only when flying with their older airplane models that don’t support Wi-Fi connectivity. On their most modern airplane models, you can use Bluetooth during all stages of flight.
Bluetooth Device Rules for Popular Airlines
- Jet2, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and WizzAir: You can use Bluetooth devices during all stages of the flight.
- Aer Lingus, Air Transat, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, EasyJet, Emirates, JetBlue, Jetstar, KLM, Norwegian Airlines, Qantas, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and WestJet: You can use Bluetooth devices on planes, but not during takeoff, landing, or when the seatbelt sign is on.
- Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines: You can use Bluetooth devices only when the airplane has reached 10 000 ft altitude.
- Air Canada and Air France: You can use Bluetooth devices only on flights that offer Wi-Fi connectivity. On older airplane models, it’s banned.
Why Bluetooth Is Sometimes Restricted on Planes
When Bluetooth was new, its potential effects on airplane communication systems were unclear. So you weren’t allowed to use it during the flight. But in 2013, FAA (Federal Aviation Administration – the main airline regulator for the USA) lifted the ban on Bluetooth devices. Now, each airline has to determine for themselves whether to allow Bluetooth devices or not.
Contrary to popular belief, Bluetooth devices don’t interfere with airplane communication systems. That’s because they’re a low-powered form of wireless communication. But even though it’s harmless, two out of every three airlines don’t allow using Bluetooth during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
Airlines limit Bluetooth devices because they’re concerned about other safety risks. Large Bluetooth devices, like laptops and tablets, can cause injuries during heavy turbulence or in case of an emergency. And wireless headphones, especially noise-canceling ones, limit the flight crew’s ability to give directions to passengers. Essentially, you aren’t allowed to use Bluetooth during the critical stages of the flight to avoid potential lawsuits in case someone gets injured.
Bluetooth Isn’t Affected by Airplane Mode
Unless you’re using a very old device, Bluetooth will still work when your device is in Airplane Mode. This means that you’ll be able to watch movies on your laptop with Bluetooth headphones during the flight.
Airplane mode used to turn off Bluetooth a decade ago but it isn’t a common practice anymore. That’s because airline regulators, airlines, and manufacturers understood that Bluetooth is harmless.
To test if Bluetooth works in airplane mode on your device, switch on Airplane Mode and see if Bluetooth is still connected. Sometimes, Bluetooth will switch off while the device switches to Airplane mode. But you can turn Bluetooth back on after it has finished.
Larger Bluetooth Devices Have Different Rules
You can usually use small Bluetooth devices, like your cellphone, AirPods, and wireless earbuds, during all stages of the flight, even takeoff and landing. That’s because they won’t cause any risks during an emergency.
Larger Bluetooth devices, like laptops, tablets, and wireless keyboards can become flying projectiles during turbulence. That’s why airline employees ask you to stow them away while the seatbelt sign is turned on.
Bluetooth headphones should theoretically be safe to use during takeoff and landing. But while you’re listening to music, you might not hear any important announcements. So in reality, a lot of airlines will ask you to take them off during the critical stages of the flight.
More and More Airlines Are Loosening the Rules for Bluetooth Devices
Newer airplane models come with modern communication systems, which can tolerate more interference. They also support satellite internet connections and can transmit it to passengers over Wi-Fi. That’s why a lot of airlines have started offering Wi-Fi on some of their flights.
The good news is that on these flights, Bluetooth devices can now be used during all stages of the flight. So as more and more airlines update their airplane fleet, restrictions for Bluetooth devices are becoming a thing of the past.
Summing Up: Traveling With Bluetooth Devices
You shouldn’t worry too much about using your Bluetooth devices on planes. That’s because Bluetooth is too weak to cause any interference with the airplane systems.
But do listen to any announcements from the flight crew. If the airline has any restrictions for using Bluetooth during the flight, they’ll tell them to you before the plane takes off.