Flying This Summer? Why You Shouldn’t Forget Your Old-School Headphones

May 27, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As the summer travel season kicks into high gear, it is time to repack carry-on bags with all the newest electronics and gadgets for your next trip.

But travelers have increasingly found themselves on board with headphones that aren’t compatible with their airline’s inflight entertainment system. The problem? Airline systems haven’t kept pace with the evolution of consumer electronics.

Starting with the iPhone 7, Apple killed off the traditional headphone jack. Google followed with the Pixel line and other manufacturers have joined the party.

As a result, consumers now have a high chance of owning headphones that do not have the traditional 3.5mm connector necessary for using legacy audio systems on airplanes. Airlines often have headphones available for purchase, but they are low quality and unlikely to be worth keeping after the trip. If you show up on board with newer headsets (including Bluetooth headphones), expect to be disappointed.

Related: The 7 Best Starter Credit Cards

For those in love with their AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. For years, manufacturers have insisted that integrating that technology into every seat on an aircraft would be too challenging. But that’s begun to change; multiple vendors are now offering solutions. The three largest players — Panasonic Avionics, Thales and Safran Aerosystems — all have a version of their inflight entertainment systems that allows customers to pair personal Bluetooth devices to screens at their seats.

Initial implementations of these new Bluetooth connections show a lot of promise.

The bad news? These new systems will take years to be adopted by airlines and installed in large numbers of planes. Safran’s first installation is slated for later in 2020 while the others have not yet announced any timing for installation. Retrofit specialist IFPL also has an option that allows airlines to add a Bluetooth connection to the jack in the armrest, saving cost and time for airlines that want to offer the connection now. The product was just introduced last month.

Airlines will catch up to the latest technologies eventually, maybe even before more new technology replaces the current state of the art. Until that happens, however, travelers must be prepared with older IFE options to ensure a happy trip.

Featured image: Chesnot/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.