Electronics Ban: Get Ready to Surrender Your Headphones

by Enoch

The “electronics ban” that prohibit passengers from traveling with electronic devices larger than a smart phone are now implemented across the board. Those traveling from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries to the US will now have to check (or gate check) their laptops and tablets prior to boarding.

Initially, the rules appear to be pretty clear cut about what is and what isn’t allowed. The UK even outlinined a size limit on itmes allowed, which many airlines has used as the same guidelines for US routes. However, a few days into the ban, we are learning that it might not be the case. Specifically, items we travel with that count as electronics, but aren’t super obvious. The Points Guy reports that some passengers had to surrender their graphing calculators on a Qatar flight, because they exceed the size limit.

But perhaps more disappointing: some airlines might not allow passengers to fly with noise-cancelling headphones. I’m of course talking about the over-the-ear and around-the-ear kind that clearly exceed the size of a smart phone, even when folded up. For instance, many flyers travel with the popular Bose QuietComfort 25 and its wireless (bluetooth) counterpart, the QuietComfort 35.

Since there didn’t seem to be specific guidelines about headphones when the ban was first implemented, it would appear that airlines are a bit confused when it comes to headphones. Some say that wired headphones are fine, but wireless or bluetooth headphones are not permitted. Emirates said on Twitter that bluetooth headphones are completely banned on flights to the US.

The same with Turkish Airlines, which appears to include headphones in the ban.

Of course, many bluetooth headphones (like the Bose QC35) also come with a wire that enables you to plug into the in-flight entertainment system. Does the presence of that functionality render the headphones allowed, and how much do we trust security to tell them apart? And what about wireless earbuds, which can be folded up to a size smaller than headphones, but carry bluetooth functionality? After all, cell phones have bluetooth connectivity, but are alllowed onboard.

There aren’t definitive answer about these question for now, I’m afraid. In some ways, the ban on headphones that are larger than smart phones makes sense, but it’s certainly something I didn’t initially anticipate to be a problem.

Frankly, I think losing access to my noise-cancelling headphones might be as bad as losing my laptop. I usually have them on for the entire duration of my flights, and they significantly enhance the flying experience. Many airlines also provide crappy headphones, even in First Class, so if I were to relying on their in-flight entertainment selection, I’d definitely want a pair of good headphones.

Emirates is making passengers check headphones on flights to the US.

Emirates is making passengers check headphones on flights to the US.

If you are flying on any of the affected routes, I’d make a mental preparation to live without over-the-ear noise canceling headphones for your flight. Fortunately, ear buds appear to still be allowed. But of course, ultimately we might have to surrender to whatever gate security personnel tell us.

I’m glad I held onto my wired QC20 earbuds…

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John-Mark Palacios May 10, 2017 - 4:48 pm

I’m researching this as the ban now appears to be spreading to flights from Europe. Emirates website says that headphones are allowed, but there is a max dimension, so with this and the tweet you included, I’m worried about them banning larger headphones. https://www.emirates.com/us/english/help/faq/4090648/which-electronic-devices-are-allowed-in-the-cabin-on-flights-to-the-us

I don’t wear earbuds as they aggravate my impacted earwax problem. So I have over the ear ATH M50x headphones that I use on flights. Don’t think I can argue that headphones are medically necessary, though. It’s just going to be extremely annoying having only my smartphone and no headphones (or taking earbuds and impacting my earwax because I will want some entertainment).

Chris August 16, 2017 - 12:39 am

It’s a absoulute joke I phone 7s only have Bluetooth connectivity they don’t allow u to plug in wired head phones and that’s that after spending fortunes on iTunes downloading it to the iPad then being told u can’t board with iPad then downloading everything to ur phone only to be told no earphones either

Zach November 9, 2017 - 5:22 pm

Your iPhone 7 should have included an adapter for converting the 3.5mm Headphone Jack to Lightning Port allowing you to use traditional plug in headphones.

abul hasan January 27, 2018 - 2:34 pm

What about the portable blutooth speaker ? Can I carry it on hand bag ?


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