There was once a time when airplanes had a large screen at the front of each seating section. Movies were projected onto that screen and you had no choice over what you could watch. You probably watched the movie anyway. But if you wanted to listen to the movie you often had to purchase headphones from the flight attendants. Early headphones were the stethoscope type and then the airlines switched to the double input style. Frequent fliers knew to buy an adapter for those.
Fast forward 30 years and most airlines offer some form of in flight entertainment. Some companies have a huge selection of movies and TV shows, both recorded and live, that you can watch on their seat back displays. Other airlines stream their entertainment services directly to your phone, tablet, or laptop (sometimes you will need to download their app first). With some airlines the entertainment is free and with others you will have to pay. Don’t forget that most streaming services allow you to download your favorite shows to watch them later.
|Delta||Free||In-seat & Streaming|
|United||Varies||In-seat & Streaming (2)|
|(1) App required|
|(2) depends on aircraft|
If you are using your own device to watch the entertainment then your Bluetooth headphones will be fine, but if you are going to use the in-seat TVs then you will need wired headphones. Most airlines have standardized their headphone jacks to the same type that most cell phones used in the past, 3.5 mm. If you have an iPhone you will still need the adapter that came with your phone.
If you didn’t bring headphones don’t worry. Most airlines will be happy to sell you a pair. But the sound quality from those cheap airline headphones leave a lot to be desired. You are always going to be better off bringing your own. If you are going to be flying frequently then you will want to invest in a good set of over ear noise canceling headphones. These can be quite pricey, but they really do offer you the chance to avoid being bothered by loud passengers or crying babies.
If you are traveling with children you should check out some of the headphones made just for them. Over ear headphones work best as the in ear ones tend to fall out. There are hundreds of different designs, styles, and characters to choose from. Most of these also include a built in volume limiter so your kids can’t turn up the sound too high.
With headphones and a good show you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.