But in-flight movie-viewing can also end up being a frustrating experience, in large part due to the flimsy, foam-capped headphones given out in most economy cabins. Volume all the way up, hands cupped against the crushing plastic on your ears, you still can’t hear a damn thing over the plane’s engines.
It’s all the more irritating when you have a pair of top-of-the-line wireless headphones sitting in your backpack that you can’t connect to the screen. If only there was a way to use those Bluetooth cans you invested in for the in-flight system…
In today’s unfortunate Age of the Dongle, we’ve finally found one that makes life easier rather than just more annoying. Airfly is a new dongle-like gadget from Twelve South, a company that specializes in add-ons for Apple products. The matchbook-sized device works as a Bluetooth receiver: You plug it into the headphone jack in your armrest, connect yourwireless earphones to it, and presto, the audio from the screen in front of you is sent right to your ears—no wires and no disposable headphones that look like they were found in a Happy Meal.
To get AirFly up and running, you simply hold down the button until it flashes amber and white, put your Bluetooth headphones into pairing mode, wait a couple of seconds until the two find each other, and then plug the receiver into the headphone jack.
With AirPods, it’s a similar process, except you keep them in their charging case while pairing. On a full charge, which takes two hours to complete, the AirFly lasts about eight hours. It can be used in any normal 3.5mm headphone jack and not just on airplanes. The company says it works at the gym too, so you don’t have to deal with wires while watching your treadmill’s screen.
I tried the AirFly out on a recent international flight on JetBlue, an airline that notably charges $5 for headphones if you, say, only brought your wireless ones and can’t connect them to the seat-back live TV system. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it all was; I expected to deal with some troubleshooting, but there was none.
Occasionally, I heard some crackling from the receiver not being tightly plugged into the headphone jack, but after testing it on an empty seat next to me, it became clear that it was the fault of loose hardware in my armrest, not the device itself.
But for the person who is sick of painfully bad audio on planes and wants to use their pair of top-end wireless headphones instead of packing wired ones just for the flight, the AirFly is a real solution to a recurring annoyance.