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One of the biggest hassles that I had to deal with when I started to travel a lot was how to listen to music on a plane. It was a confusing concept to me with all the rules on wireless connections and such. Don’t worry. You don’t need to dig around for that old Walkman or CD player to listen to music on a plane. There are a few different ways that I’ve used to listen to music on a plane with devices I already have or were available to me.
Bottom Line Up Front
My favorite way to listen to music on a plane is to use the music subscription service Spotify Premium and download a previously made playlist to listen to once I’m in airplane mode. It’s as easy as hitting the download arrow next to the playlist title, putting my phone on airplane mode, and opening my downloaded playlist. You have to pay $9.99 monthly for this service, but I think it is worth it with all the extra features of Spotify.
How to Listen to Music on a Plane
There are a few different ways that I listen to music on a plane that works flawlessly. You will need your headphones (Bluetooth or auxiliary) for any of these various methods and maybe a device to listen to the music on, whether your phone, laptop, or tablet. Below are three ways to listen to music on a plane with devices you already own:
- Streaming Service Subscription
- Airline Seatback Screens
- Use the Planes Wi-Fi
If you have never used or are interested in how to use one of these methods, continue reading to see how to listen to music on a plane. Each is a viable option that I have used and has its own advantages and disadvantages.
This is what I personally use to listen to music on a plane and is, in my opinion, the best option. To listen to a streaming service on a plane, you will need to pay for a monthly subscription, which is about $10 a month, depending on your service. This will give you access to ad-free music and make it so you can listen to a certain amount of music offline.
I don’t usually listen to mainstream music, so I love this option because I can put nearly any song created onto my in-flight playlist. It is also the cheaper option for choosing your own music while flying. There are other ways I can use my subscription other than on a plane, like road trips that don’t always have cellular service or making my own playlists based on my mood rather than a genre of music.
If this method intrigues you too, follow the steps below to listen to music through a streaming service on a plane.
- Download music playlists you want to listen to. This is only available in music streaming apps for which you pay a monthly subscription. If you pay the monthly subscription, you simply need to make a playlist with all the music you want to listen to and download it by going to the playlist settings or hitting the download icon with a downward-facing arrow.
- Put your phone on airplane mode. Airplane mode is usually put in your phone’s settings under “networks” and can be easily turned on by tapping the on/off button. You may have to turn your Bluetooth back on if you plan to listen with wireless headphones.
- Open your music app and click on the downloaded playlist. Once you are in airplane mode, when you open your streaming app, it should automatically pop up your downloaded playlists. If it does not, go to the downloaded playlists section in your app and hit play.
Airline Seatback Screens
Airlines have recently started putting entertainment screens on the back of the seats on their planes. This is usually a small screen, about nine inches by seven inches in size, but it varies amongst airlines. You can find movies, games, podcasts, and music on these systems to keep you busy. I’ve even found some newer movies and music on these that haven’t been released publicly yet. Plus, they are entirely free for you to use during your flight.
Unfortunately, not every plane has a seatback screen, and airlines are starting to wonder if they should even add them to new planes. I wish this wasn’t the case because I actually love them, but they add weight to the aircraft, making each flight cost more, and most people tend to use their device if they have it. You also will not have as much of a selection to choose from as with a streaming service.
You can use this free option by following these three steps before boarding and during your flight.
- Check to make sure your aircraft has a seat back screen. Some airline websites will briefly describe your plane when you buy your tickets. However, if you don’t see that, you will have to call the airline and ask if your flight has a seatback screen and if it plays music.
- Pack a pair of headphones with an auxiliary cord. I have never seen a seatback screen with Bluetooth capabilities, so you will need to plug your headphones in an old-fashioned way. The auxiliary plug should be in the screen’s frame, usually next to the control buttons.
- Select music in the options on the seatback screen. Seatback screens usually have a wide variety of music, but not everything. You will see the most popular songs on different playlists, such as kid’s music, rock, pop, and country.
Use the Planes Wi-Fi
Most planes nowadays come equipped with Wi-Fi that you can pay a one-time fee to use. The available Wi-Fi isn’t the fastest in the world, but it is quick enough to send e-mails, use streaming services, and use social media. It usually costs around $10 to use once, or some airlines even have a subscription service if you fly frequently.
I’ve used the Wi-Fi on a plane one time and didn’t find much worth in it, to be honest. The only time I could see the Wi-Fi being more valuable than a subscription streaming service is if you also need to send e-mails or don’t want to pay for a subscription service and only fly once or twice a year. Other than that, subscribing to a streaming service is much more beneficial.
To use the Wi-Fi on your plane, follow the steps listed below.
- Put your phone in airplane mode. Once airplane mode is turned on, you must go back into your phone’s settings and turn back on your Wi-Fi. Using a laptop or tablet, you will simply have to turn your Wi-Fi on.
- Select the Wi-Fi network for that airplane. You should be automatically redirected to a screen where you will pay for your Wi-Fi. You can then simply follow the instructions on your screen to continue onto the Wi-Fi. If you are not redirected, you may want to ask a flight attendant for help, or you can manually try to type in the airline’s website in your browser.
- Use your regular streaming service. You can then surf the web as you usually would on your phone to access anything that works over the internet. That includes your music streaming service, video streaming, social media, and any other website.
Best Headphones for Your Flight
This may seem a bit extra, but I firmly believe that having the wrong headphones can ruin your in-flight music experience. There are different types of headphones that you can use according to your preferences. For example, choosing noise-canceling headphones would be an excellent option for those who don’t want to be bothered their whole flight, but there are also headphones made so you can still hear everything around you.
Below are some of the best headphones I have found for flying for any criteria you may have for your headphones.
Best Auxiliary Cord Earbuds: Linsoul Tin T2 Hifi
- Detachable braided cord
- Sleek metal design
- Soft sound
- Lightweight and durable
- Detachable cables come out easier than they should
If you want a pair of cable earbuds that will last forever, look no further. These metal earbuds not only look expensive and sophisticated, but they are also highly durable. You don’t have to worry about plastic cracking if they are dropped or smashed, and the cord is braided, making them more flexible. I love the fact that you can detach the cable making it even more durable because the wires won’t rip off the earbuds, and you can just replace the cable if it does become damaged.
Even though these earbuds are made of heavy materials, they don’t feel heavy on my ears, weighing only eleven grams. The sound is unique in that it is more of a softer sound that emphasizes the vocals of your music but is still relatively balanced. I like to wear my earbuds upside down with the cord wrapping around the top of my ear, and I’ve found that this creates a more authentic sound with the position the earbuds are in.
The detachable cables on this are one of the best features, but also one of its flaws because the cables can fall out of the earbuds. You have to be pretty rough with them to get the wires to come out, like snagging the cord on something or doing a vigorous exercise. It isn’t very pleasant, but I’m sure it helps with the durability since you aren’t putting all that weight on the cables.
Best for Hearing Your Surroundings: Shokz OpenRun Pro
- 10-hour battery life
- It can be used with hearing aids
- Extremely comfortable
- It can be annoying if you’re resting your head
I got these headphones as a Christmas gift and said thank you politely but was looking at them thinking, “That looks useless.” Boy, I was wrong because these are some of my favorite headphones for any situation where I want to be aware and listen to music without others hearing. They are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever put on my head, and I love that there isn’t something sitting covering or inside my ear.
Shokz made these headphones initially so people who wore hearing aids could listen to music through headphones by using bone conduction technology. How that works is the vibrations from the headphone hit the bone in front of your ear and create a sound within your eardrum. That means your ear canal is still completely open to hearing what’s happening around you.
The company later rebranded them to be more for runners or other athletes that need to be aware of their surroundings. However, they are also great for any situation where you want to still talk or hear other people around you, for example, hearing a flight attendant ask for your drink order. The only thing I do not like about these headphones is the design that wraps around the back of your neck because you have to fidget with them to rest your head comfortably.
Best Bluetooth Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort
- Adjustable noise-canceling
- Touch controls
- 6-hour battery life, plus an extra 12 hours with the case
Bose is known for making products that produce a fantastic sound, and their noise-canceling earbuds are no exception. I never expect much noise-canceling when it comes to earbuds because I don’t understand how an earbud could not let sound leak through. However, the technology in these earbuds does a remarkable job of neutralizing background humming or rattling and ambient noise.
You can also completely control these headphones without ever taking out your phone by tapping, swiping, or holding the outside of the earbud, and the actions are customizable on the Bose app. Your music will also automatically pause and play when the earphones detect that they have been removed from your ear. Another adjustment I frequently make to these earbuds inside the app is how much background noise I want to hear by changing the level of noise canceling.
Although the outside of these earbuds are pretty flat and seem small for all the technology put into them, they are relatively heavy, and the case is significant for the size of the earbuds. I don’t really understand why they made the case so big other than maybe it’s to house a bigger battery. I also wouldn’t recommend doing a lot of high-impact workouts with these earbuds because they fall out of my ear sp easily, but they’re pretty comfortable for sitting on a plane.
Best Noise-Canceling: Sony WH 1000XM4
- Fold into a compact case
- 30-hour battery life
- Intelligent sound controls
- Great accompanying app
- No water resistance
Sony has always been a leader in making noise-canceling headphones, and even though these aren’t the latest version, they are my favorite of all the headphones they’ve made. The way they fold into a compact case makes them perfect for travel because they could easily fit into my backpack with all of my snacks and other flight necessities. There is also no way they will die during your travel with extraordinary 30-hour battery life.
On top of them being some of the best travel noise-canceling headphones, they have quite a few technological features that I love. One of my favorites is its conversation awareness, where the headphones detect when you are talking and automatically turn down your music. They also pause your music for you when they have noticed that they are removed from your head.
The only thing that I wish these headphones had was some water resistance because it is nonexistent. I do not recommend taking these headphones to the beach or near a pool unless you don’t mind risking damage. However, I have a friend with these headphones, and he got them when they came out two years ago, and they are still in mint condition, even with all the folding and unfolding they’ve done.
Best Music Streaming Services
- 30-day free trial
- Free option available
- Can follow and listen to your friends’ playlists
- It can be used across a variety of devices
- 70 million songs, plus podcasts, comedies, and audiobooks
- Has prioritized podcasts recently
- No high-resolution options
Spotify is most likely a music streaming subscription you have heard of because it is literally everywhere, including game consoles, smart watches, TVs, desktops, and even dating apps. The social aspect of Spotify is the number one draw to it because you can also share and listen to your friends’ playlists and even download them to your phone for your flight, which I utilize often because I’m pretty lazy when it comes to making playlists.
I love that they have such an array of different types of audio files other than their 70 million song library, such as audiobooks, podcasts, and stand-up comedy. This makes Spotify one of the most expansive audio streaming subscriptions out there. It’s reasonably priced for what you get costing $9.99 monthly, and can be cheaper with a family package or if you are a student. They even have a free option, but this doesn’t let you download playlists for in-flight listening.
The one thing I’m not a fan of with Spotify right now is that it has recently become relatively politicized with the addition of specific podcasts. Some artists are dropping off of Spotify because of it. For example, Spotify recently added the Joe Rogan podcast to their selection, and Neil Young pulled his music off the app. It will be interesting to see how Spotify handles this sticky situation.
- 30-day free trial
- Free option available
- Auto-curated stations
- Lists artist tours and makes it easy to get tickets
- The free option is lacking
- You can’t make playlists without the Premium
Pandora was the original music streaming service that hit it big time in the music world and the first one I ever used. Pandora’s most significant advantage over other streaming services is its auto-curated stations. You can fine-tune this process by giving the random songs played that you like a thumbs up and Pandora figures it out from there. It is one of the most straightforward streaming services I’ve used to find music I like without making an entire playlist.
I love how you can connect with the artists in this app because Pandora adds stories from artists that talk about how they made a song playing or a quick shoutout from the artist playing. It will also pop up when an artist you are listening to is having a concert in your area and give you options to buy tickets to that concert quickly. Pandora can also be found on any app store, desktop, and Xbox.
Pandora is one of the more budget-friendly options for listening to music on a plane, with offline listening options starting at $4.99 with Pandora Plus. However, the free option and Pandora Plus are severely lacking in the features department, unless you are the type who likes the app to pick every single song for you. You don’t get the option to select specific songs or make playlists unless you have Premium, which is $9.99 a month.
- 90-day free trial
- Discount or free with Prime membership
- Can purchase and download music
- has some high-resolution music
- 75 million tracks and podcasts
- Amazon Music Prime only has 2 million tracks
- Discount for Prime members is not significant
One of the most remarkable things I’ve found about Amazon Music is its broad range of pricing options and tiers available. Amazon Music Unlimited has a free tier, a prime discounted tier, student pricing, family pricing, and Amazon Music Prime. The free version doesn’t let you make playlists, and the full version lets you download playlists to listen to on a plane, has some music videos, and has high-resolution tracks between 44.1kHz and 192kHz.
Another significant feature I love about Amazon music is its compatibility with all Echo, Alexa, and FireTV devices. You can listen to the 75 million tracks from any speaker in your house by simply asking Alexa to turn it on. I also like that you can purchase and download music from Amazon Music to take them with you on any device you desire.
If you are already a Prime member, you can get a version of Amazon Music that is included in your membership price but be warned there are only two million tracks to choose from. This is perfectly acceptable for some that don’t have a huge interest in surfing through music. The Unlimited version does have a discount for those with Prime, but it only brings it down to $8.99 from $9.99 on top of what you’re already paying for Prime.
- free 3-month trial
- It has a little high-resolution music
- You can purchase and download songs
- 75 million tracks
- Live radio
- No free version
- Not many other audio files other than music
Apple Music is kind of like Itunes revamped into a music streaming service, with the layout and navigation feeling very similar and the ability to purchase still and download music files. Another benefit you get with going with apple music is that it can be used with Siri or any other iOS device and can even be downloaded on an android system. You also get a few live radio stations with this app that can be listened to while connected to data or Wi-Fi.
Even though Apple Music just started adding high-resolution music to their platform, they have quite a bit of a selection between 48kHz and 192kHz. These high-resolution files aren’t available on every device that Apple music is available on quite yet, only being found on iPhones, iPads, Mac, and Androids. On top of this upgrade, they have also added music video streaming that you can access 24/7.
Apple Music has the most extended trial period of all the subscription services, letting you listen for free for three months. Although after those three months, you must pay the monthly $9.99 subscription fee because there is no free version of the app. With so many tracks and the addition of a few features recently, this is an excellent app for in-flight music but doesn’t have many other options for audio other than music.
- High-resolution music files
- Can purchase music for download
- 70 million tracks
- diverse genres
- It offers a lot of information about what you’re listening to
- No free option
- No podcasts
If you are looking for a music streaming app that offers you some of the best-sounding music you will get, look no further. Qobuz provides some of the highest resolution music, with most of their music being above CD quality, with songs being 48kHz to 192kHz. You can easily find out just how high-res your song is by finding it below the song’s title, which is something you don’t see in any other music app.
I also love this app because they are really good at spreading their music selection evenly across genres, so it’s perfect for those that like a little bit of everything, from classical to heavy metal. Since they are so good at spreading out their music across genres, you may not be able to find some of the most obscure music out there, but with 70 million tracks, you will undoubtedly find enough.
Qobuz is one of the more expensive options on this list, starting at $12.99 per month or $129.99 per year, but this gives you access to downloadable playlists for your flights with some of the best-sounding music you will get. You can even upgrade to Sublime+ for $15 per month to get special discounts on music purchases. Overall, this is the cheapest subscription for the quality of music you get.
Answer: If you have any downloaded music on your phone or another device, you can listen to music in airplane mode. You can do this by purchasing music from sources like Apple Music and Amazon Music or paying for a subscription streaming service that lets you download music for offline use. You can also purchase your airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi to stream music as you usually would in airplane mode.
Answer: Yes, you can use Bluetooth earbuds on a plane. Once you put your phone in airplane mode, your phone will automatically turn off your Bluetooth along with data and Wi-Fi. You simply need to go to your Bluetooth settings and turn it back on to connect your earbuds.
Answer: Free Spotify can work on a plane only if you purchase your airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi. I don’t think it is worth it to simply listen to music because the Wi-Fi price is usually the same amount you would pay for one month of Spotify Premium. If you want to use Spotify Premium for free only once on a flight, sign up for the free one-month Premium trial and cancel it before the month ends.
Answer: The only free way to listen to music on a plane is to use the seatback screens that some airplanes come equipped with. Not every plane has these entertainment systems, so you must check on the website when you purchase your boarding passes or call the airline to see if your flight will have them. You will also need earbuds or headphones with an auxiliary plug because the screens do not have Bluetooth.
Answer: Jet Blue is the only American airline that currently offers free Wi-Fi. This airline has free Wi-Fi zones, so you’ll need to check the free Wi-Fi map on their website. Other international airlines offering free in-flight Wi-Fi are Norweigan Air, Emirates, China Eastern, Air New Zealand, and Qatar Airways.
The best way that I have found to listen to music on a plane is to use a music streaming service that you can subscribe to and download songs or a playlist for offline listening. I have used Pandora in the past because it is the cheapest option at only $4.99, but I’ve recently switched to Spotify purely because I can make playlists to download and share those playlists with friends or vice versa. Once I’ve made my in-flight playlist, it’s as easy as downloading the playlist and switching my phone over to airplane mode.
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