Skip to Content

My experience with music while on airplanes

Music has always been an important part of my life. I remember my first iPod. Before that: I remember my Sony Walkman. I remember buying my first Madonna album. I remember dragging my college friends to the club so I could dance to beats I’d never heard before. I remember making mix CDs from all my illegal Napster downloads for my Mom each Christmas.

So it’s no surprise then that when I’m traveling, I bring my music with me. Half the fun of a road trip is planning the music you’ll listen to. But when we fly, why don’t we make mixes as regularly? Truthfully: I’ve never made one for a flight! And I doubt you have either.

airplane selfie - listening to music

On airplanes, we’ve got other distractions I guess. There are the in-flight movies, the frequent overhead announcements trying to get us to sign up for credit card offers or buy duty free. On international flights, I might open up the personal in-flight entertainment and look for an album I want to listen to, but it’s often hard to make a playlist from the on-board systems. And the music selection is almost always just the top hits of the day, plus Michael Jackson and maybe a few oldies—and always a jazz selection. Where’s my music?


Music makes me happy. My music. And while I’m generally very happy to be up in the air (I live for a good window seat), there are a lot of emotions to move through when coming or going from a trip. Happy to be going somewhere new, sad to be leaving somewhere you love, happy (or sad) to be returning home, anxious to arrive, glad to be disconnected. There are just so many. And, like with watching movies up in the air, being in an airplane just accentuates all those emotions.

Music equalizes the experience, or with the right playlist, can further accentuate those emotions in a positive way.

This year I was gifted a 1-year membership to the new YouTube Music app. Already with my unlimited international data plan from T-Mobile, I’ve been watching more YouTube videos than ever before—so transitioning my music habits through the YouTube system made sense.

airplane selfie - listening to music

The app has a number of features which make it useful for a frequent traveler like me. But mostly, I’ve been playing with the Mixtape feature of the YouTube Music app. Based on your YouTube usage, it builds a single automatic Mixtape playlist with up to 100 songs based on your interests and music habits.

There are other playlist features built upon your listening habits, but the Mixtape is unique because it just seems so simultaneously random and specific to my tastes.

It’s been a wild ride to see what music shows up on my personalized Mixtape. Rather than a single themed playlist, it covers a variety of genres, but with 100 songs, there is always plenty to listen to for a domestic flight. (Strange, though, that it’s not just 100x “Hello” by Adele considering how many times I’ve watched the music video…)

youtube music screenshot

I love that the Mixtape feature builds itself based on both my music listening habits as well as my YouTube watching habits. Certain musicians like Lizzo and Childish Gambino that I don’t regularly listen to as music per se—but watch regularly because their videos are A M A Z I N G show up on my Mixtape list. It’s the chance to re-discover some of my favorite songs, and discover new ones at the same time.

Of course, as I listen to more within the YouTube ecosystem, my playlists will further develop.

airplane selfie - listening to music


I love flying. I love the magic of airplanes—barreling through the sky in a metal tube with 300 other strangers. Looking out the window and seeing that I’m amongst the clouds, 20,000+ feet up, hints of the land below. It’s not magic, of course; it’s science.

The magic comes through the experience. When you put the headphones in, turn the volume up, and take that moment to get lost through the notes and chords from your favorite artists.

music while flying - clouds are a dreamscape

NOTE: Though I was given a free 1-year membership to YouTube Music for review purposes, my opinions are my own. Discover YouTube Music yourself here with a free trial.


  1. Guide says:

    I would probably die if I wasn’t allowed to listen to music while on plane

  2. Petit says:

    Just remember to keep your phone on airplane mode ;)

  3. Simon says:

    Great! Loved reading it throughout.

  4. […] just a listener—and a dancer. I don’t produce music; I’ve never played an instrument. But music moves me unlike just about any other art form. I’m a spectator more so than a creator when it comes to […]

  5. […] just a listener—and a dancer. I don’t produce music; I’ve never played an instrument. But music moves me unlike just about any other art form. I’m a spectator more so than a creator when it comes to […]

Comments are closed.