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Ever wondered why some airlines allow only earbud style headphones during take-off, landing and taxiing? Airlines do their best to not allow passengers from using over-the-head style headphones during certain stages of the flight. Quick answer to this regulation – Safety.
Earbud style headphones only
Safety is the primary reason why some airlines allow only earbud style headphones connected to the inflight entertainment (IFE) units. Earbuds connected to IFE also ensure that the safety announcements can be heard by all passengers, they override the IFE programs. My personal gripe is when the safety announcements via IFE/headphones almost tear into the eardrums. For that reason alone, I prefer to not have any headphones on while flights are getting ready to take-off or land.
In case of emergency evacuation, earbud style headphones are the easiest to remove and proceed to exits. Earbud style headphones form a ‘Y’ shape when worn and are easy to yank out in case of emergencies. Over the head headphones form a ‘closed loop’, a trip hazard which can be dangerous while evacuation procedures are in place.
Having said that, many business class cabins come with over the head style noise cancelling headphones which can be connected to the IFE systems. Passengers can continue their IFE programming gate-to-gate as long as they are using headphones provided and are connected to the IFE system.
Outside the issue of headphone style, airline staff is most concerned with passengers using their headphones connected with personal devices, which impedes them from hearing and following instructions during critical phases of the flight.
Airline safety is paramount and while these regulations can seem annoying, airlines have a tough job of mitigating even the slightest chance of hazard onboard. So never mind the style, headphones in general make us less aware of our surroundings, and we can all do better when it comes to following safety protocols onboard.
It is taking “what if” safety scenarios to the extreme. Not all over-the-ear headphones are closed loop, many have the cable only on one side (just like the AC ones in the picture). Whether they are being worn or on my lap waiting for after takeoff, in an emergency they could still fall on the floor equal the same trip hazard.