Delta joins United in rolling out Bluetooth headphone support on latest jets

May 20, 2022

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You’ll soon have one less dongle to pack for your upcoming Delta trip, as the Atlanta-based carrier is working to add wireless Bluetooth connectivity to its inflight entertainment systems.

This frequently requested feature is being tested alongside the introduction of the airline’s first Airbus A321neo. The jet’s 20 first-class recliners each feature a 13-inch high-definition entertainment system that supports Bluetooth connectivity.

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Delta is testing Bluetooth connectivity in first class on the A321neo, and the carrier will use the results of this trial to help make a decision about rolling out this feature on a broader scale. The airline wants to make sure the technology is ready for prime time across its fleet before committing to a roll-out plan.

“We need to make sure that as we test Bluetooth that it’s stabilized and doesn’t get interference,” said Mauricio Parise, Delta’s vice president of brand experience, in an interview during a special ferry flight onboard the A321neo.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This means that those traveling in the pointy end of the new A321neo will be able to connect their AirPods or other Bluetooth wireless headsets to the inflight entertainment system without any additional cables.

You’ll simply need to find the Bluetooth logo in the bottom right corner of the inflight entertainment system.

Once there, click the logo to begin pairing your headphones to the entertainment system. You’ll need to put your headphones into pairing mode in order to connect them to the seat-back screen.

For AirPods, that requires pressing the circular white button at the back of the case and waiting for the status light to flash white. Once in pairing mode, it should take just a few seconds for the system to recognize and pair with your headphones.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I played around with the new Bluetooth connectivity feature during TPG’s first-look tour of the A321neo. The entertainment system quickly recognized my AirPods, and I was streaming wireless audio output moments later.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The audio quality was crystal clear, and I especially appreciated how quickly the system recognized my AirPods.

Note that the volume control on your headphones likely won’t work to control the inflight entertainment system, but at least you’ll be able to connect wirelessly without a dongle or other third-party accessory.

Adding Bluetooth connectivity to planes is a feature that many tech-savvy frequent flyers have requested in recent years, especially given the popularity of AirPods and other wireless headphones.

Many travelers no longer carry a pair of wired headphones, leaving them to request earbuds from a flight attendant or to pack a special dongle. (The AirFly accessory that connects AirPods to seat-back TVs has risen in popularity recently.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The in-house Delta Flight Products start-up develops the carrier’s entertainment systems, and this is the team responsible for the Bluetooth trial. Hopefully, the airline will receive positive feedback and begin rolling out the feature more broadly in the coming months and years.

That said, Delta is technically playing catch up with its “Big 3” competitor United with the introduction of Bluetooth connectivity.

Last year, the Chicago-based airline unveiled its new signature cabin interior at the United Next event in June. A key feature of the new cabin includes Bluetooth connectivity at all seats, including those in economy. United has since rolled out this feature across its fleet of new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and plans to retrofit many existing jets in the coming years.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United’s Bluetooth feature is also technically in “beta” testing, but I’ve yet to run into any issues connecting my AirPods to the United entertainment system on any of my recent MAX 8 flights.

Hopefully, we’ll see more airlines add Bluetooth connectivity in the future, as it’s clear that wireless headphones are here to stay.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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