This week one of our members heard a somewhat puzzling in-flight announcement from the cabin crew

I really believe this is a first for me in 200+ flights over the past 5 years, but on my ARM-SYD QFlink today the announcement was “now is the time to turn off all electronic devices and remove headphones

These days, many passengers wear noise cancelling headphones (which use electronics to cancel out or reduce repetitive noise such as engine or wind). With the present ban on electronic devices many airlines have, such electronic headphones clearly must be switched off by law. What happens with non electronic headphone use will vary between each airline and their safety policies

I recently discovered that on a couple of Westjet flights in Canada. On one flight ear buds could be left in but headphones needed to be removed. And on the other flight I was allowed to use my headphones upside down. ie the bar that normally goes over your head now had to go under my chin. Either way I was confused.

So why the inconsistency? Under Aviation law, it is the responsibility of the airline to ensure the safety of the aircraft and its occupants. Airlines are required to orally brief passengers on each flight as to the safety procedures in place. In order to meet their obligations, Airlines will assess what is needed and put such procedures in an operations manual. Over time, these policies will change based on feedback and experiences, such as when an indent occurs.

When such incidents occur, the event is often analysed by the airline, and if serous enough, government safety bodies such as Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The use of headphones has been a factor in accidents in the past. In fact the ATSB has agreements with state coroners to report their use/presence in any information sharing between agencies for this reason.

It’s not only the airlines and government working to have your best interests at heart. Groups such as the Asia Pacific Cabin Safety Working Group encourage research into these areas as well. A recent study by the University of NSW Aviation Department highlighted the use of Noise Cancelling Headphones and the fact they increased comprehension by passengers of the preflight safety briefing.

So it seems headphone use is good and bad, it’s all about using them in the right circumstances. At the end of the day cabin crew instructions are law and must be obeyed. Have you had some strange requests when using headphones or earphones?

Join the conversation HERE.

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