If, like me, you love flying but hate having to fiddle around with wired headphone connections for in-flight entertainment systems to function then Twelve South has the ultimate small-scale and low-priced solution: the AirFly.
I can't tell you the number of times I've got out of my seat on a flight only for the headphones' wire to deliver a silent uppercut due to my failure to unplug it. Or, in some specific seating arrangements, having to perform finger gymnastics to partially insert the headphones jack to get any kind of usable sound (yes, American Airlines, you know the seats).
Twelve South isn't new to the wireless Bluetooth dongle game for flyers either. You can already buy the AirFly Duo (you guessed it: two connections at once) or AirFly Pro (adds ability to stream from your phone to an AUX in - potentially useful for stereo systems). But, having used the new Airfly (it's the 'SE' model on some sites), I'd definitely opt for this cheaper, simpler solution.
Having tried out the latest AirFly on my recent long-haul flights from London to Cape Town I already know it'll be in my flight kit from here on in. Here's why the Twelve South AirFly is a frequent flyer's essential in-flight accessory.
AirFly: Price & Availability
As I've pointed out above, you'll see 'AirFly SE' as the name for this 'lite' version of the AirFly on many sites. This is the cheapest model in the range, too, priced at £34.99/$34.99 and available on Amazon and elsewhere. I think that's a really strong price point to make it a no-brainer purchase.
AirFly review: What's in the box?
The AirFly comes in a small white box and in addition to the Bluetooth dongle device itself you also get a soft beige carry pouch with drawstring ties. There's a card Quick Start guide and a paper manual included, plus a short-distance USB-C cable for recharging (but no wall plug).
Charging takes place via USB-C, with an open port on the product's base. You'll easily be able to satisfy that need to recharge via any spare port or wired plug. But with a 20 hour battery life per charge, chances are you won't need to do so often. I did 22 hours of flying and even in that time the device didn't surrender.
Airfly review: How does it work?
What I really love about Twelve South's Airfly, however, is just how darn easy it is to use. There's an on/off toggle on the side, next to which is a button to connect a nearby Bluetooth device. With my current best headphones sat atop my head - the Bose 700 being my current long-time winners - pairing was achieved in a matter of seconds (the headphones verbally telling me so).
Then all you have to do is plug the stereo 3.5mm jack into your in-flight system's audio out port and job's a good'un. At least it was on British Airways' refitted Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft, which have modern systems. Volume can be adjusted both on the device itself, via the +/- buttons, and by using the in-flight system - so overall volume is of no concern.
I'm yet to try the AirFly on any further flights, but I'm confident some systems will pose irks and difficulties: a lot of older American Airlines (and other carriers) use a tri-connector, for example, for which you'll need an adaptor (or a lot of patience in getting the stereo 'band' to sit across the right section to achieve mono output to both ears).
I like how the AirFly has a short wire, a couple of centimetres long, to give it some distance between the 3.5mm jack/port position. I've used other products which have the jack (sometimes multiple jacks) coming directly out of the product's body, which can pose some physical connection issues in some situations. No such problem here.
There is also an LED indicator to aid with alerts. You can check battery life by double-tapping the volume up button, for example, or mute by double-tapping the volume down button. I like the sentiment, but it's a case of remembering too many potential outcomes for this to be especially useful. Better than nothing at all, though, even if you'll probably have to refer to your Quick Start card again.
Twelve South AirFly review: Verdict
I've used a number of Bluetooth headphone adapters designed for in-flight systems before, but the sheer simplicity of Twelve South's latest AirFly product has impressed me while up in the air.
It's an easy way to cut the wire while using your favourite in-flight headphones, assuming the single 3.5mm jack will work with the planes on which you intend to fly. AirFly is definitely going to be a mainstay in my travel bag that I won't leave home without ahead of a long-haul flight.
Want a little more from your Bluetooth headphone adapter? The AirFly Pro is pricier, but its ability to stream audio from a phone to another system, such as in and older car or wired to a headphone jack on a stereo system, could be a feature you'd want to pay the extra for. Otherwise, despite lots of cheaper in-flight products on the market, I'd stick with the AirFly for its small-scale, neat design and overall ease of use.