American To Flight Attendants: Let’s Test Not Taking Headphones From Passengers Before Landing

One of the more common pet peeves among American Airlines business class passengers is the tendency for flight attendants to collect headphones an hour or more prior to arrival.

  • On an overnight flight this means that announcements about headphones are disturbing passengers who may still be trying to sleep

  • And it means that passengers can’t continue to use the headphones for the remainder of their flight

American offers expensive Bang & Olufsen headsets and they do not want to lose them. (In 2018 they switched from Bose to Bang & Olufsen.) The practice of collecting headphones dates back to long before US Airways management took over and has been a pet peeve for ages. United doesn’t require this.

Fortunately as JonNYC reports on a great change for American Airlines business class – this week American started a test called “Leave At The Seat” where flight attendants do not demand headphones back prior to landing.

I reached out to American Airlines who confirmed the test and shared that in addition to passenger benefits this will also help crew who will no longer have to go through the collection process.

Instead of collecting headsets flight attendants are supposed to tell customers (one-on-one and not via announcement),

American is constantly exploring new ways of elevatin the onboard experience. One of the wayswe’re doing this is by conducting a test on today’s flight where we will beleaving your headset at your seat for the entire duration of today’s flight, including upon arrival to LHR/GRU.

We politely ask that when we arrive at LHR/GRU, you place the headsets back into the case and leave it at your seat.

Afterwards you’ll receive a brief survey via email asking about your experience during this test. We appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to fill out this brief survey and look forward to your feedback.

American clearly wants to see whether they lose headsets this way, and whether whatever breakage occurs is worth a measurable increase in customer experience and goodwill (via survey).

The test is currently taking place on 4 roundtrip flights.

  • Dallas fort Worth – London Heathrow (AA20 and AA21)
  • New York JFK – London Heathrow (AA100 and AA101)
  • Dallas Fort Worth – São Paulo (AA963 and AA962)
  • New York JFK – São Paulo (AA951 and AA950)

It’s not yet clear when the test will end or when the change could roll out across the international network.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — I’ve always wondered what happens when deplaning passengers from the main cabin lift the headphones as they pass by on their departure from the aircraft. Will the business class passenger who occupied the seat potentially be blamed for the theft?

  2. I never wear Super-Spreader headphones provided by the airlines. I bring my own. Do you actually think they clean them? A good way to catch Covid 21.6 is to wear those nasty things.

  3. American Airlines flight crews seem hesitant to gather used airsickness bags before landing. So should business class passengers now leave their used sick sacks on their seats adjacent to their Bang & Olufsen headsets before deplaning?

  4. Btw AC did a headset collection last week on CDG-YUL at the 30 minute prior to landing. Offered earbuds…

  5. Can you even use them except on the plane itself? They have the two-prong plug-ins.
    I have always been surprised and irritated when they have to be collected, yet you have to close the viewing screen, so you can’t even listen to the show.

  6. I’ve often wondered why airlines use a convoluted passive form when addressing passengers rather than doing so directly. As in, “We politely ask” that you leave the the headsets…, rather than “Please” leave the headsets.

  7. The actual test is not about whether it’s a better passenger experience. It’s to see how many headphones go missing! And maybe to see how many passengers answer the post-flight survey question: “How as your experience”, with a response that says “Great, I had a flight and got a free pair of headphones!”

  8. Flight attendants are only paid while the aircraft doors are closed. If I read this right, the FAs will collect these headsets after landing, which means the door is open. So AA now wants FAs to do what was a paid function for no pay?

  9. They should use a heavy chain to attach the headphones to the seat. Make like borrowing a gas station bathroom key.

  10. the simple solution could be what Lufthansa has been doing. Just attach the headphones to the seat and problem solved.

  11. Although you can buy an adapter for almost anything, I’m not sure there’s a huge demand for wired headphones, even if they are B&O. But some people feel entitled to steal anything that isn’t nailed down.

    Now, if the airlines started providing Bluetooth headphones, and they’ve started taking about making the online entertainment Bluetooth compatible, they could have a problem. My guess is they’ll be both wired and wireless to prevent theft – you can use your own or they’ll give you a wired set.

  12. They’re probably already losing headsets due to waking up sleeping customers an hour prior to landing & pissing them off. Can’t see economy passengers stealing them during deplaning due to the amount of eyes around at that time. Plus, low demand for tech that really only works on a plane. With 85%(ish) pax only flying once or twice per year, net zero breakage with much happier biz customers is my guess.

  13. Are those the headphones that protect against crying babies?
    Do pax in the back cabin get any kind of headphones or did they remove the seat back screens on international economy?
    Asking for a friend…..

  14. I remember my first trip on Emirates and how shocked I was years ago when I was able to enjoy a music video in headphones right up to deplaning
    And how much better everything was in the experience compared to any US airline
    Life changing for a reasonable and fair amount of miles
    Almost every time now I look at 50,000 miles in coach from the West Coast to Chicago on AA and just use another program.They are truly horrible sadly as well as predatory and evil
    Nobody deserves to be ripped off but they do that frequently.After decades of loyalty I am now an equal opportunity user and vote with my wallet wherever I am treated fairly

  15. This will be another failed attempt at AA to make something work. You better believe someone will lift them. They’d be better off converting to bluetooth tech during their next retrofit and make it BYOH.

    Another option would be to hand the headphones to teh FA upon deplaning. OR ya know.. BRING YOUR OWN.

  16. Airlines also should stop serving big meals appetizers ! Instead better quality snacks, fresh fruit and lighter meals in night flights!

  17. Just so you know American Airlines makes the flight attends to this it’s a hassle for the flight attendance to do this. The flight attendants don’t want to do this but American makes us do this is not like we go out there and try to make everybody’s flight miserable. So I wonder what’s gonna happen now our the flight attends gonna have to collect them upon Landing on international flights and wait and wait before we can leave the aircraft to collect and count these headsets. If that’s the case it’s ridiculous cause we’re not getting paid. I could care less if we leave them there but the flight attendant should be responsible for them and we shouldn’t have to count them.

  18. Funny. We just flew AA J DFW-BOG, and my wife mistakenly took the AA headphones and
    put her $38.00 Anker ones in the B&O case and handed them to the FA. They are wired, not BT, of course, but my wife only uses headphones on flights, so she doesn’t care about BT. Also, Felicia, they don’t have the two prong plug.

  19. Honestly, this is one of the most offensive parts of the AA business class experience. Some tickets cost $5-10k, and then they worry about me stealing the headphones. These are the same headphones that they allegedly with GIVE ME FOR FREE if I use my Exec Platinum free gifts when AA has them in stock. Crazy.

  20. Nice. Gonna buy a OW DFW to LON fare so I can sneak past the J cabin and steal some junk headphones!

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