If you're sick of using airline-issued headphones, or being transported to the dark ages of wired connections on planes, you'll be pleased to hear that a new era is dawning in the world of Bluetooth connectivity on flights. US airline United has heard your complaints and is kitting out its fleet of aircraft accordingly.
The rollout isn't happening overnight, but United has just placed a huge order for 270 new craft that will beef up the passenger experience, and is retrofitting existing craft to tick the same boxes; a feat that is aiming to be complete by 2025 (via Simple Flying (opens in new tab)). The improvements on the way include seatback screens on every seat, super fast in-flight WiFi, roomier overhead luggage compartments, and the much-requested Bluetooth connectivity.
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Bluetooth headset pairing on inflight entertainment seatback screens now on @united ✈️ 🎧 📺 #paxex #ife #unitednext pic.twitter.com/8vV5YSMx2TJune 29, 2021
United Airlines is now the first airline in the US to cut the cord and allow for the option of using Bluetooth headphones for in-flight entertainment. It's not the first globally, with Qatar Airways holding that title. The Doha-based airline beat United to the punch by a matter of days, allowing passengers to use their own headphones with the Oryx One system.
There are a number of obstacles to making Bluetooth connectivity available on flights, with the sheer amount of people in close proximity to one another being up there on the list of things to troubleshoot. If you've ever tried to pair your device using Bluetooth at home or work, you'll be familiar with seeing multiple options pop up for you to attempt to connect to.
Now imagine that but on a flight rammed with other people, all with their own devices, trying to do exactly the same thing. But now that the problem seems to have been resolved by United and Qatar, we'll hopefully start seeing Bluetooth options make their way to other airlines.
If you're looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones to take on a flight that are kitted out with Bluetooth but also include cables for the inevitable transition period, we recommend the Sony WH-1000XM3 (a favorite amongst T3 staff), the newer Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 in-ear buds, which use their own charging case a Bluetooth transmitter when connect to a plane system.