Why Airlines Still Use Multi Pronged Earphone Jacks

The reasons behind the madness

Jordan Fraser


Photo: Reddit

It happens to me every damn time.

As I move slowly through the arduous line of people waiting to board the plane, I pass an enormous pile of crappy airline earphones.

They sit wrapped in plastic, hoping to be mistaken as new.

Person after person reaches out and grabs their pair.
Not me.
I brought my own earphones.

These flimsy plastic nightmares that crack the second you adjust them, don’t fit on a head larger than a 10 year olds; and barely conduct sound.
I was smart, I paid a lot for a good pair and was damn sure I was going to use them.

I was sure right up until the dreaded moment I sat down, reached out and saw the jack.

Photo: Purple Idea

“Those Bastards”

But Why?

There are several factors that explain why airlines won’t just play nicely with everyone else.

The first reason stems back to the fact that airlines have been around for a long time, even before the invention of the 3.5 mm jack.

1. Gimme back my tech

Back in olden times, providing headphones for everyone onboard to borrow was a big deal.

Proceeding the modern system was an archaic version that needed two connections. One linked up your left ear, and the other the right.

When airlines made the switch to modern headphone jacks, they maintained the two connections of the old system.
Business and First Class cabins were given a third connection, this extra pin provides a noise cancellation bonus.

Headphones that could fit into the two jack system were expensive at the time. They were sure the headphones would be stolen, and had to think of a countermeasure.

Their countermeasure fell right into their laps