Most smartphones now have no headphone jack, meaning you will mostly be carrying Bluetooth headphones or earphones with you. Although this frees you from wires, it comes with its own disadvantages. One such drawback is that your Bluetooth headphones, including AirPods, won’t work with in-flight entertainment systems. This means you won’t have any entertainment option for the full duration of the flight. However, you can use AirPods with an in-flight entertainment system if you make preparations in advance.
How to use AirPods with in-flight entertainment system
Having wireless earbuds may prove a drawback not just on flights but in a few other scenarios as well. For instance, many cardio machines won’t support wireless earbuds. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t support Bluetooth headphones either.
You can easily solve these (and many more) issues if you have a dongle or adapter that allows you to connect your wireless earphones with the device that has a headphone jack. There are many options available on Amazon, ranging from cheaper ones to more expensive branded models like the AirFly Pro.
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Most of these options will allow you to use the AirPods in flight, and all work more or less the same, provided your flight isn’t too long. Setting them up is easy and involves a few steps. They are:
- Charge the adapter.
- To put the adapter into pairing mode, long-press the main button
- Bring your wireless headphones or earbuds closer to the adapter.
- Look at the blinking lights on both the adapter and wireless headphones. If the devices are paired, the color of the light or blink speed or both should change.
- Plug the adapter into the headphone jack and put on your earphones to check if they are working.
- If they are still not working, turn the adapter off and re-pair it with your wireless headphones.
Drawbacks of using a dongle
Another way to use the AirPods in flight is via in-flight Wi-Fi systems. Some airlines now have Wi-Fi systems that stream all the audio and video content to your phone, tablet or laptop. All you have to do is log into the system and enjoy the content on your own device. However, not many airlines offer such a facility currently.
Therefore, using an adapter or dongle is the easiest solution, but it comes with some drawbacks. The first is that the pairing process may take a few tries, considering that there could be many other users on the flight who are trying to do the same, resulting in too many signals.
The next drawback is low volume. If you are using an adapter to use the AirPods in flight, then you should be ready to compromise on the volume. With most dongles, the output volume is much lower than what you get normally. Another drawback is every time you connect your AirPods or any headphones to the adapter during the flight, you will have to re-pair them with your smartphone once you land.
One other drawback is battery life. Most dongles offer a battery life of about three to five hours. Although this is enough for most flights, you will have to fully charge the dongle before you leave. However, there are a few options like AirFly Pro, which claims to offer up to 16 hours of battery life.
Which dongle to use
TwelveSouth, which is known for making accessories supporting Apple products, recently released an updated version of the AirFly, which connects Bluetooth headphones to an audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack. The new version, called AirFly Pro, enables you to use your AirPods or AirPods Pro just about everywhere, including in flight.
The AirFly Pro comes with many added benefits over its predecessor, including the ability to stream audio in and out. This means you can pair it with a car stereo system as well to stream from your iPhone to the car’s sound system. It could also support home stereo equipment such as speakers that do not support Bluetooth streaming connections.
One major advantage of buying AirFly Pro is that it supports audio sharing, meaning you can connect two pairs of headphones at a time. This enables you and your partner to enjoy the same movie or audio even if you have just one AirFly Pro dongle between you.
Another benefit of the AirFly Pro is that it charges via USB-C and comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable as well. The battery, as said above, lasts for about 16 hours, which is enough even for the longest of flights. Moreover, it features a slim, white design and is small enough to fit into your pocket or any carry-on luggage.
If you don’t want to spend the money on the AirFly Pro, a cheaper option is the TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver, which is available for $30 on Amazon. It can also plug into any headphones or audio-out jack to stream audio to your wireless headphones. This dongle uses aptX technology to reduce latency and features a rechargeable battery that could last for about 10 hours.