AirPods Pro on airplanes or Bose? This post will help you decide and connect them to make the most of your trip.
Are you thinking about buying a pair of AirPods Pro or Bose wireless noise-cancelling headphones for travel? Can’t decide which to get? Let me help! I have both the AirPods Pro and the Bose QC35 IIs and will share my thoughts on which is better for travel and why. Read on.
Note: This post has been updated to include adaptors to make using AirPods Pro on airplanes the clear winner.
My Bose Background
A few years back while searching for cheap flights to France, I splurged on a pair of Bose QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones. After that trip, I questioned how I ever flew long distances without them. They were my new favourite carry-on item and I took them on every flight, short-haul or intercontinental. On top of delivering excellent audio and an escape from noisy aircraft cabins, it helped someone who has a hard time sleeping on planes get some rest.
What I Didn’t Like With The Bose QC-25s
That said, as much as I enjoyed the Bose QC 25s, they do have a couple of minor issues for me. For one, size. they are not the most compact set of headphones. I travel carry-on only so space in my backpack is at a premium.
Another issue for me is, although they definitely help me sleep, any pressure on the headset disrupts the noise cancelling. This means if either earpiece is resting on the seat, the cabin noise will come in.
Lastly, Bose QC 25s are wired headphones. With the increasing amount of wireless noise-cancelling headphones on the market, I was eager to cut the cord.
Are AirPods the Answer For Air Travel?
It was around this time that Apple was rumoured to be releasing a noise-cancelling version of their extremely popular AirPods. In my mind, this would solve all my current issues. I eagerly awaited their release.
Weeks turned into months, and those months dragged on. Finally, Apple made an announcement in March of 2019 that their 2nd generation AirPods were on their way…but they were not noise-cancelling.
With that disappointing news, I moved on to the Bose QC 35 II’s, the updated next-gen version of what I had.
Are The Bose QC 35 II Good For Air Travel?
On top of being wireless, the Bose QC 35 II’s noise-cancelling headphones also include Google Assistant integration and the excellent noise cancellation Bose is known for. Add to that a ridiculous 20 hours of battery life with noise cancellation activated (40 hours without!) and my favourite travel companion just got a whole lot better.
Bose Disadvantages for Air Travel
That all said, the Bose QC 35 II’s are still the same size as my previous headset and the noise cancellation issue, although much better, still remains.
Enter The AirPods Pro
About two months after my purchase, Apple dropped the news that the AirPods Pro were on its way and would include noise cancellation. Again, nuts.
Regardless of my new purchase, I decided to place an order for the AirPods Pro and put the two to the test. AirPods Pro or Bose for travel? Which will win? Let’s find out.
Are The AirPods Pro Good For Air Travel?
Naturally, Airpods Pro on airplanes makes a lot of sense.
AirPods Pro combines excellent battery life (4.5 hours but a rechargeable case brings it to 24 hours!) and noise cancellation into an incredibly small form factor. This makes them a great travel companion and, right off the bat, addressed two of my issues with the Bose headsets.
The noise cancellation, although not as good as Bose’s full over-ear headphones, is really, really good. The AirPods Pro has a similar issue to the Bose QC’s in that the noise seal is affected if pressure is applied. That said, AirPods Pro is so much smaller than over-ear headphones so this is not even close to being an issue for me.
AirPods Pro Disadvantages For Air Travel
Advantage AirPods Pro right? Not so fast. Although the AirPods Pro address all of my issues with the Bose QC 35 IIs, there is one glaring hole I overlooked, the AirPods Pro is 100% wireless and the Bose QC 35 II includes a wired cable. This gives Bose a couple of unique advantages:
- if the battery dies, you can still use the headphones (although not in noise cancellation mode);
- YOU CAN DIRECTLY CONNECT TO IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS!
That second one is huge and something I completely overlooked. This isn’t a concern for short flights as I can easily entertain myself by connecting to my phone or laptop. Long-haul flights, not so much. Inflight entertainment has come a long way. Most airlines have modern systems and include some great content. Not only is it a great way to kill a few hours, I rarely go to a theatre and see most new movies on a plane.
There is a workaround to connect your Bluetooth devices. You can purchase a dongle to transmit from the inflight headphone jack to your AirPods Pro. I have recently come around to this and has made using AirPods Pro on airplanes so much more practical.
I used one available on Amazon called AirFly on flight flights to and from Africa and it worked great.
I highly recommend picking up an airplane audio adaptor as well to make sure you can connect to various systems.
You Can Lose Airpods Pro on Airplanes
Another disadvantage of AirPods Pro on airplanes is that they can be easy to lose in your seat or seat pocket. I use noise cancelling as earplugs when I am trying to sleep on flights and, although the fit is snug, the earbuds can pop out and fall between the seats.
Also, since the case is so small, it is easy to forget it in a seat pocket. As one reader pointed out, this can be easily mitigated with a silicon case and an attached carabiner. I actually have one in navy blue and works great to protect the case as well.
AirPods Pro or Bose For Air Travel? My Pick Is…
I will be hanging onto both my AirPods Pro and Bose QC 35 II’s. The AirPods Pro will accompany me on my short-haul flights. I will bring the Bose on longer trips (think flight(s) New York Paris or Vancouver Hong Kong). This also aligns well with their respective battery life. Although the AirPods Pro can technically get 24 hours of playtime, that includes charging them in their case every 4-5 hours. It takes ~ 30 minutes in the case to fully charge the earpieces.
UPDATE: Using the AirFly dongle has removed the need for me to pack the bigger Bose headphones. Worked great on my trip to Africa!
I know my decision does not help you with purchasing the AirPods Pro or Bose so I will break it down.
Buy the Bose QC 35 IIs if:
- you want to use in-flight entertainment systems;
- long-haul flights are the norm for you;
- you are OK with the size.
Buy the AirPods Pro if:
- you are OK with only watching movies on your personal devices and using a dongle to connect to inflight entertainment systems;
- short-haul flights are the norm for you;
- you value your carry-on space.