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Air travel is hardly a comfortable experience – we are subjected to tight seats, bland food, dry air, and disruptive noises. From babbling babies to obnoxiously loud conversations and snoring chair neighbors – being confined in a flying tin can is really not peaceful.

But, you can transform a potentially stressful air travel experience into a serene one with one simple accessory: headphones.

Many people skip the headphones, thinking they are overpacking (a common travel mistake), but once an infant starts screaming, you’ll be glad you packed a pair.

By investing in a quality pair of headphones, you’re able to escape into your own world of chosen sounds (or silence!).

With the right travel headphones, you can immerse yourself in your favorite podcasts, movies, and music… and isolate yourself from the surrounding chaos.

I’ve traveled a lot, and have tested out plenty of noise-canceling headphones in my time. So, join me as I explore some of the best travel headphones for airplanes, with noise-canceling abilities, great sound quality, and a comfortable fit.

Sony noise canceling headphones case

Are Airplane Headphones Good Enough?

As you might be aware, these days the airlines have seriously upped their in-flight entertainment offerings on long-haul flights. And to help you pass the time, you get a (slightly uncomfortable) set of headphones to help you enjoy the movies, documentaries, and games on offer.

But, can airline headphones really keep all the noise from the airplane at bay?


These wired headphones are not only often uncomfortable on (or in) your ears, but they also allow all the sounds around you to disrupt your blockbuster film.

Travel tech noise canceling headphones

Benefits of a Good Set Of Headphones

Before getting into the best headphones to use on airplanes, let’s consider why it is a good idea to invest in some good quality headphones or wireless earbuds.

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Most airline headphones are not Bluetooth-compatible. If you want to listen to music or podcasts on your own devices, it is best to pack your own pair of headphones.
  • Comfort:Comfortable headphones feel like soft clouds cradling your head. Although airplane headphones work fine for short trips, they can quickly begin pressing on your ears as the hours drag on.
  • Noise-canceling: You might not be able to escape your cramped seat, but you can escape the ambient noise of the surrounding passengers with a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

The Best Travel Headphones For Your Different Needs

With your ears drumming with your favorite feel-good tunes, tuning out the airplane and passenger noise is a welcome bonus. The best headphones for traveling in airplanes can make your trip beyond bearable.

Whether you are a technology expert or a headphone newbie, I’ll take you through the various choices to help you make an informed decision

1. Top Pick: Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony headphones with Noise Cancelation


  • 30 hours of battery life
  • Can pair with two devices simultaneously
  • Active noise cancelation
  • Light and very comfortable
  • Balanced sound


  • Can’t fold away all the way
  • Pricey
  • Feels a bit plasticky (considering the price)
  • Not a big upgrade from the 1000XM4

Key features

  • Over ear headphones
  • Wireless
  • Touch control settings
  • Auto NC Optimizer to adapt noise cancelation based on your environment

Many headphone aficionados are fans of the Sony WH-1000XM5. This wireless headphone is plush, sleek, and streamlined, giving it a modern look. But, it’s not just about looking good on the plane!

These headphones have incredible noise-canceling abilities, and their touch feature on the right cup makes them easy to use. Simply swipe the cup to control volume, or tap it to pause and play.

The 30-hour battery life means it can endure even the longest flights without needing a recharge. It has crisp sound quality, comfortable plush cushioning on the ears, and a headphone jack (although it has Bluetooth connectivity).

I also highly recommend the Sony WH-1000XM4. In fact, many of my friends swear that the 1000XM4 is the better option because of its better noise isolation performance in airplanes.

2. Best Premium Headphones: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Headphones
Image by Sennheiser


  • Brilliant sound quality
  • Incredible 60 hours of battery life
  • Comfortable headphones
  • Great active noise cancelation (ANC)


  • No actual buttons to control the sound
  • Sometimes there are connectivity issues through the Smart Control app

Key features

  • Over ear headphones
  • Personalized sound
  • Airplane adapter
  • Smart Pause (stops playback when headphones are removed)

You probably won’t be on a plane for 60 hours, but having a set of headphones that can last for multiple long-haul flights really isn’t a bad thing – especially if you need to hop onto some public transport after your flight, too!

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 wireless over-ear headphones offer adaptive noise cancelation, premium sound quality, and the ability to customize your sound through the Smart Control app.

These wireless headphones are also very lightweight and can fold up, making them perfect to tuck into your carry-on and whip out once your fellow passengers become too chatty.

If the captain starts speaking over the intercom system, you can quickly activate Transparency Mode to hear any outside sounds without taking off your headphones.

3. Best Budget Option: Anker Life Soundcore Q30

Soundcore by Anker headphones
Image by Soundcore


  • Decent noise-canceling technology
  • Up to 40 hours of battery life
  • Very affordable


  • Noise-canceling only works when connected via Bluetooth
  • Sometimes it slips a bit when moving your head

Key features

  • Over ear headphones
  • Filters out up to 95% of ambient sounds
  • Memory foam ear cups
  • Fast charging

If you are on a budget, then the Anker Life Soundcore Q30 is a viable option for airplane travel. You will get all the features you need, without exceeding your trip budget.

Despite its affordable price, you will still get a comfortable pair of headphones with good sound quality. It has three sound modes – I recommend you switch to “transport” mode to keep the buzzing airplane engine noise away. The other modes are “outdoor” and “indoor.”

Anker Life has also released the Soundcore Q35. These headphones offer many of the same benefits as the Q30 but cost significantly more without really getting your money’s worth.

4. Best Earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Headphones


  • Lightweight and easy to pack
  • Comfortable silicone tips to create an acoustic seal
  • Much better audio quality than the previous model
  • Transparency mode to hear the world around you and spatial audio


  • Shorter battery life (Up to 6 hours of individual use with active noise cancellation enabled, but up to 30 hours with the charging case)
  • Sometimes falls out of ears
  • No waterproofing features (which is not too important on a plane)

Key features

  • Earbuds
  • One-tap setup
  • Wireless connections
  • Compatible with all Apple devices

There’s a reason that almost everyone is raving about the AirPods Pro: They really are incredible little wireless earbuds.

These small earbuds offer powerful, vivid sound, perfect for use on a plane. They also pause as soon as you take them out of your ears, so you don’t have to worry about missing a crucial bit of your murder-mystery podcast when you have to run to the loo.

Their 30-hour battery life is long enough for long-haul flights, but if you have any layovers, you’ll have to charge their portable charging case to ensure you reach your destination without having to don the airline headphones.

The AirPods Pro also comes with adaptive audio that intelligently tailors the noise control based on your environment. And with its dynamic head tracking, it can activate spatial audio to enhance those three-dimensional sounds in movies, TV episodes, and even songs.

5. Best Noise Cancelation: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

Bose quiet comfort 45 Headphones
Image by Bose


  • The best active noise cancelation on the market
  • Crisp and clear audio
  • Different immersive audio modes
  • Spatial effects
  • Adjustable EQ


  • On the expensive side (but you get what you pay for)
  • Shorter battery life than other headphones (24 hours)

Key features

  • Over ear headphones
  • CustomTune technology for personalized sound
  • Touch controls on both ear cups
  • Bluetooth 5.3

Bose headphones are some of the best on the market, and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra is no exception.

These wireless over-ear headphones are comfortable, offer effective ACN (the best I’ve tested!), and have three modes:

  1. Quiet mode
  2. Aware mode
  3. Immersion mode (recommended for airplanes)

The soft ear cups hug your ears, and you’ll barely feel the band on your head, even if you fall asleep during your flight!

I am a bit of a techy, so I really loved the fact that not only do these headphones come with touch controls, but you can also turn them on/off with certain head motions.

6. Best For In-Flight Movies: Bowers & Wilkins P17 S2

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 Headphones
Image by Bowers & Wilkins


  • Clear sound
  • Comfortable
  • Sleek, modern design


  • Expensive for earbuds
  • Short battery life (16 hours)

Key features

  • Earbuds
  • Individual amplifiers
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Wear-detection sensors

These are expensive, yes… but if you love in-flight movies, would you not want the best true wireless earbuds for the job?

The Pi7 S2 builds on the success of the Pi7, delivering better battery life, sound quality, and user experience.

Their individual amplifiers mean your movies will sound pristine – even better than if you were at the cinema!

They also have ANC, meaning you can hear the finest whispers in your film without a screaming baby disrupting the plot.

Sadly, their battery life is on the shorter side, at 16 hours. But, fortunately, you are unlikely to find a 16-hour long movie on an airplane (not even the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will need headphones lasting longer than that!)

7. Best For Music Lovers: Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 Headphones
Image by Shure


  • Very accurate sound
  • Option for wired playback
  • Great EQ
  • Improved battery life than previous versions


  • Noise cancelation could be better
  • Difficult controls

Key features

  • Over ear
  • Customizable EQ
  • Three listening modes: Music, Cinema & Podcast
  • Bluetooth 5 Wireless Technology

Music-lovers rejoice! No longer do you have to sit on a plane, listening to everyone else’s music drift through their headphones. With the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2, you can experience studio-quality sound while blocking out any outside noises.

Thanks to its adjustable modes, you can quickly switch from noise canceling mode to environment mode to listen to any announcements by the airline crew.

The battery life may only last 20 hours, but you don’t really need more than that for even the longest flights.

It is also super portable, folding perfectly flat to slip into your carry-on luggage.

8. Best for Apple Fans: Apple AirPods Max

Apple Airpods Max Headphones


  • Has probably the best noise canceling compared to all other headphones on this list.
  • Convenient transparency mode and spatial audio
  • Comfortable sleek design, solid build, and excellent quality
  • Great battery life and connection strength with Bluetooth 5.0


  • Expensive
  • No 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Microphone quality is ok
  • You get the most out of only within the Apple ecosystem

Key features

  • Over ear headphones
  • Adaptive EQ
  • Stainless steel frame with anodized aluminum cups
  • Memory foam ear cushions
  • Comes in five colors
  • Has Apple’s powerful H1 chip

If you’re an Apple fan and are deep into their ecosystem, these are the ideal noise-cancelling headphones for you. As with every other Apple product, you get an excellent quality product without sacrificing aesthetics.

The AirPods Max also comes with a few smart features that make it stand out, like auto-pause when you remove the headphones from your ears (and auto-play when you put them back).

Another smart feature is transparency mode, which enhances the ambient audio to let you hear what’s going on around you with the click of a button.

The device also comes with spatial audio, which is what Apple calls its surround sound technology.

In short, the headset encodes the sound in a way that understands from which direction it’s coming from and positions it in a 3D space, producing an immersive surround sound effect.

Even better, Apple makes sure the sound seems to be coming from the same place when you move your head by matching the gyroscopes and accelerometers in the headset with the ones in your iPhone or iPad.

The AirPods Max is among the best noise-canceling headsets currently on the market, and they are even better if you’re already using other Apple products.

Having said that, the AirPods Max does work with Android, PC, and other brand devices, but some of its smart features might not work as well or as intended.

  • Comes with a sleek carrying case
  • Very comfortable and deep ear pads
  • Great sound quality with no distortion

Updates Since 2023

When I wrote this article for the first time in 2023, I had a different list of headphones that I considered best for airplanes. But, since then, I’ve flown a few more times and sampled a couple more headphones and earbuds to test their noise-canceling abilities, sound quality, and comfort levels.

As a reminder, here are the headphones I tested (and considered the best headphones for airplanes) in 2023:

Just because I have updated my list, doesn’t mean any of these headphones are less worthy – they are still all brilliant options, and in fact, many of their upgrades feature on my list for 2024.

Man in Field with Headphones

Conclusion: Choosing Headphones For Your Flight

If it’s not clear yet: headphones are crucial for a pleasant flight. They offer you the opportunity to block out everyone else and immerse yourself in music, movies, series, podcasts, audiobooks, or whatever else you want to listen to while in the air.

There’s a kaleidoscope of headphone choices, with different designs, technology, and prices.

I hope you consider some of the headphones from my guide above, I tested them so you don’t have to, and I guarantee you will have a peaceful time on the airplane!

Headphones for Airplanes | Best Budget, Luxury, & More
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