Connect Air In-Flight Wireless Audio Adapter for AirPods and other Bluetooth Headphones
The Connect Air Bluetooth audio transmitter lets you stream wireless audio to your AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones from devices that do not have built-in Bluetooth, such as in-flight entertainment systems on airplanes. Featuring the ability to connect two Bluetooth headphones simultaneously and aptX Low Latency technology for high-fidelity, lag-free audio, the Connect Air is the ultimate travel companion for AirPods and other Bluetooth headphones.
HD wireless sound for your travels
The MEE audio Connect Air audio transmitter enables in-flight entertainment systems and other devices to stream high-quality digital audio over Bluetooth
How it works
1. Connect to in-flight entertainment system or any other 3.5mm audio jack
2. Pair with up to two AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones
3. Enjoy crisp, high-quality wireless sound
Bluetooth audio for devices without built-in Bluetooth
Works with airplane entertainment systems and all other audio devices with standard 3.5mm audio output, including Xbox / PlayStation controllers, Nintendo Switch, and computers
Stream audio to up to two AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones or speakers simultaneously
High-fidelity digital sound
The Connect Air transmits clear, distortion-free digital audio with no white noise, no need to find the right frequency, and no way for a stranger to listen in on your audio stream
Qualcomm® aptX™ Low Latency technology
Supported audio codecs include Qualcomm® aptX™, which provides improved audio fidelity and clarity, and Qualcomm® aptX™ Low Latency, which minimizes audio delay and prevents lip-synching issues with aptX™ Low Latency-enabled headphones
15-hour battery life
Built-in rechargeable battery provides 15 hours of playtime or can be kept plugged in for an always-on connection
Sleek design with built-in audio connector fits easily in a pocket or bag, making the Connect Air the perfect go-anywhere companion for your Bluetooth headphones
What's in the Box
Connect Air Bluetooth Transmitter
|What's in the Box
The Connect is covered by a 1 year warranty. If you are not satisfied with your product, contact MEE audio to help resolve your issues.
|Connect Air Product Manual
For information on troubleshooting, pairing, connecting, maintenance, and more please refer to the Connect Air user manual.
Connect Air Support Guide:
MEE audio created the Connect Air Support Guide page to provide you with easy-to-follow video setup guides, the full user manual, and the latest troubleshooting information.
|Setup Guide: Getting Started
Watch the video below, which demonstrates how easy it is to set up your Connect Air.
This product is covered by a 1 year warranty. If you are not satisfied with your product, contact MEE audio to help resolve your issues.
Surprisingly Comfortable Low Profile Earbuds
Posted by X
I purchased these primarily for everyday use, but they have proven to be an unexpected gem for workouts as well! The slim and lightweight design sits comfortably in my ears without any discomfort, even during extended wear. The sound quality is good enough, and while they were not initially designed for workouts, I've found them to be reliable companions during intense activities so far, whether it's a gym session or a run in the park. Maybe too much to hope they will last with how much I am using them now, but I'm enjoying having an all in one solution for the time being!
Not sure how I ever traveled without it!
Posted by UL
Small device and very convenient, goes right in my go-bag! Great that it can be used while charging, so I don't even have to worry about that before I travel!
Posted by Unknown
Good gift for a frequent traveler
Long lasting battery
Posted by Anthony
Good product, easy enough to connect and the battery lasts quite a while! Two flights later still halfway charged. Protip: add to cart on Amazon and wait for a deal, have bought two now way cheaper than the price here.
Works for music practice
Posted by DJGrooveStar
Works great with my MEE Bluetooth m6 pro in-ear monitors, there is a little bit of audio lag but way better than just using airpods. Nice and clear sound, good enough to practice without wires. Probably not good enough for actual live use.
Posted by traveling_podcaster
Wish the default volume went up a little bit louder. Paired fine with Galaxy buds, noise canceling worked great on my flight!
Audio anywhere anytime!
Posted by Normally DIY
Can use my AirPods in even more places now!
Posted by TechGeek99
Clear sound and easy connectivity
Works as advertised
Posted by Daddy-oh
Works as advertised
You are now free to move about the cabin
Posted by AA
Pleasantly surprised by the design and the seamless experience with my airpods. The two look like they belong together! Better yet, the range was impressive, allowing me to move freely even as far as the plane's restrooms, without having to pause the movie.
Posted by Unknown
Nicely compact size makes it travel-friendly, just stick it in your gear bag or coat pocket and off you go! Plenty of battery life for round trip domestic flights, so you can just pack it and forget it!
Great for airlines that have entertainment screens
Posted by David Anderson
So when flying there are two types of travelers that would not need this thing:
1) Some first class cabins already have built-in Bluetooth connectivity for audio (though many still do not).
2) Some planes no longer have entertainment screens and tell you to bring your own iPad.
In all other cases, a Bluetooth transmitter is a must have if you want to use your AirPods or other wireless headphones rather than the often poor-quality headphones provided by the airline. Again, not a problem on like Emirates in first class as you typically get a Bose headset, but not every airline has this.
To use this device, just plug it into the audio jack of the in-flight entertainment system (or personal device like iPad), put it in pairing mode (2 clicks), and then put your headphones into pairing mode (for AirPods just open the case without taking them out, then hold the button on the back of the case until the light blinks white; other headphones will vary). Easy peasy. Used it on one flight so far, and the battery still had half left after 8 hours.
2nd time is a charm
Posted by Jeze
I couldn't get my first unit working... got a pink light and no response whatsoever. To their credit MEE was quick to replace and the new one has been flawless in the past 3 weeks.
Wireless speaker hack
Posted by jperez20
I am using this device to keep listening to shows in my kitchen using this device and a Sony Bluetooth speaker. I just plugged this into the headphone jack on my receiver and paired it with the speaker. Now when I leave the room, I can just grab my speaker and take it with me to the kitchen, bathroom, anywhere! Don't even need to wait for a commercial! You're welcome!
Nice and tiny!
Posted by Patricia
Nice design, small, compact, and works good enough for me! Only disappointed that it doesn't work with my old Sennheiser TV headphones. It works with Bluetooth only!
Not a RECEIVER for your CAR
Posted by California Love
Saw a couple of reviews from people trying to pair the Connect Air with their phone to try use it to stream to their car stereo... That is not how it works. This product is a Bluetooth TRANSMITTER. I am using it to connect a portable stereo to a pair of Bluetooth earmuffs so I can keep listening when things get loud in my shop. There are a variety of other ways it can be used, as long as your sound is ORIGINATING from a wired audio jack (in my case the stereo) and the device you want to send it to is Bluetooth.
In the other scenario, streaming from your phone to your car stereo, you would need a Bluetooth RECEIVER. This would be a device that takes the audio from a Bluetooth device (your phone) and your phone and sends it out via the cable to your car stereo.
Hope that can clear it up. Great little device, the most compact one of it's type that I've seen. A little expensive considering it only has one application really, but also one of the few that can be used while charging so... good practical design as well.
Fills a connectivity gap
Posted by P.T
Finally an easy way to connect my airpods to a PS4 - just plug this Connector into the jack on the controller, and voila! I bring this thing with me when going to a friend's house and tryna keep the volume down, can laugh in my airpods while everyone else is messing about with cords.
No volume control
Posted by Giselle
Easy to set up and stable connection, but if your headphones don't have volume buttons you're going to be stuck changing the volume on the TV. Originally I planned to use my airpods but it was highly inconvenient so I went back to my old Jlab earbuds with volume buttons. If your headphones have volume buttons, you're all set!
Otherwise this does exactly what it says on the tin!
Easier than expected
Posted by Jenna
Was concerned that it would be hard to use after reading some of the Amazon reviews, but it's actually really simple even for me! There is only one button so all you need to know is:
1) Charge it before hand or bring the cable with you, either works fine
2) Long press to power on/off
3) Once powered on single click to check the battery level, double click to connect your airpods (airpods have to be in the case with the lid open and the white light flashing). a blue light comes on once you have done this.
4) Once connected, you just power it on and then open the airpods case to use them, the blue light will come on again
That's it, I really think that even the elderly can use this device, it's that easy!
Using with Aftershokz
Posted by adaml24
Lets my use my aftershokz headphones with my earplugs to listen to the radio while mowing the lawn and doing stuff around the garage. Easy and quick to set up. Highly recommend this combo!
Finally got it going - beware the reset procedure
Posted by Henry
So this is not mentioned in the user manual, but this thing has an old-school "pinhole" reset on the left side of the unit. First time I tried to use it, the software froze on me and I was seconds away from printing the return label when I saw the reset. I don't know if I held the button down too long or what, but I haven't had the same problem since. By the way, to pair Bluetooth headphones with this unit it's a double-click, not a long press.
Posted by Doug
Good straightforward product: Charged and plugged it into the plane's audio jack. Paired my headphones. Watched the movie. As with many things in life, what you're paying for here is simplicity.
Posted by Socal Mom
This device is just a fancy splitter for Bluetooth headphones. Works fine with an iPad through a USB-C adapter, can now have two kids sharing one in the backseat. Using it with Puro kids headphones which work fine, not sure about other brands.
Wanna love it.
Posted by T. Big
The battery is as advertised but it is best if the airplane also has an available USB port. When it does, it's fantastic. It has good sound. I'll hold onto it.
Very useful - definitely recommend
Posted by Derek Schipper
I purchased one of these for use in airplanes. I recently returned from a cross-country journey across the United States utilizing it on both United aircraft flights. Overall, it matched my expectations and ran smoothly. The quickstart guide made setup easy. I've already recommended this to my colleagues.
Greatest gadget for travel!
Posted by KG
I just needed to charge it once (the night before the flight), and I could use it both going to and coming from Europe (two 8-hr plane rides). Setup was fast and simple as well.
Works well but definitely overpriced
Posted by nevaduh
What is it? It’s a 3.5mm audio jack bluetooth transmitter. Not groundbreaking. Does it work? Yes, even with AirPods Pro despite what some have said. My unit works fine and charges while transmitting. There is a very faint buzz while charging, but it isn’t too distracting while listening to music. The build quality is meh and it is absolutely overpriced for what it is. Am I happy with it? Sure. Would I buy it again, probably not.
WAS a Great Traveling Device
Posted by Arnold G
Fantastic little thing. Just follow the provided instructions and it's pretty easy to set up. It's great to be able to watch TV together while traveling. Just don't do what I did and remember to PUT IT IN YOUR BAG BEFORE YOU GET OFF THE PLANE!
This is a life saver!
Posted by Bryan
My AirPod Pros ran out of juice before this tiny device even started to slow down, and I used it on multiple trips that lasted more than three hours without needing to recharge. I feel like a complete moron for not knowing about this earlier. Love it!
Posted by Beau
A must have if you have Airpod Pros! Not sure why, but other bluetooth transmitters I've tried don't work with Airpod Pros. This though....flawless.
Goodbye airplane headphones
Posted by Alexa
When I saw someone using one of these on a plane, I thought to myself "Duh!" Not sure what brand they had but saw that this one was highly recommended on Amazon. I just had to leave a review here because of how much I love it. My partner and I can both watch something at the same time while wearing our own headphones. That means..No more needing to share airpods! It's very sleek and even looks like an apple device. The quality is great and performs flawlessly. I've already started buying them as gifts for relatives and friends :)
Simple and Genius
Posted by Mary from KS
Bought this for an overseas flight. Ended upgrading to business where they have noise cancelling headsets and this worked perfectly with them. Very easy to use and it just worked. No problems the entire flight.
Where has this been all my life?!
Posted by La Mer
I'm usually skeptical about electronic gadgets from companies I know nothing about, but this is truly amazing. Pairing is quick and easy, and I no longer have to deal with headphone cords dangling from the TV to the treadmill. There are so many uses for this. Everyone should have one!
Posted by A Mom
Just recently returned from a vacation trip and this little device worked like a charm! For my kids, that is. I got this for them so they could enjoy hours of cartoons together. Seriously made the trip so peaceful. Very thankful!
Easy set up
Posted by Young Kim
Perfect for traveling and watching movies in the car with another person. The battery is great. Pairing setup is easy and the connection stability is on point. I don't go anywhere with out it.
No more airline headphones.
Posted by Danny
Great little product here. It's small, compact, and fits well in my travel case. Connecting to my headphones was easy and reconnects perfectly every time. So far no issues and no complaints here. Recommended.
Works great with AirPods Pro
Posted by Engels
Paired with AirPods Pro right away and haven't had any issues since I've had them. They stay connected without dropping the connection, and reconnect seamlessly. Buy it
External bluetooth dongle
Posted by Michelle
My work laptop has its Bluetooth functionality disabled for security reasons. We are allowed to use the headphone jack though. This device is a lifesaver - it lets me use my AirPods with the headphone jack so I can still get up and stretch! Easy to set up and works while plugged in so I don't have to worry about running out of battery.
Too expensive for what it is
Posted by C6 Z06
$50 when I bought it. Nicely designed device with a simply UX, but for someone familiar with how bluetooth transmitters work, it doesn't do anything a cheap ebay transmitter doesn't do.
To add insult to injury, it was on sale for less than 40 bucks the following week.
Posted by synergy
No longer have to be attached to the seat in front of me! Had a lady on my last flight take a picture of the transmitter, she was so impressed with it!
Posted by joe.x
product is fine paired easily and works wit my earpods. used it on a crosscountry flight no problema
Good once you figure it out
Posted by Quattro
Following the directions is a must, I wasted a good 15 minutes trying to solo the setup and still didn't get it. With instructions it only took a minute.
Great little product
Posted by Moviefan
Was easy to pair and works great with airpods, but my airpods reconnect automatically to my phone. I have to close the bluetooth on my phone when I want to reconnect to this device. Other that this minor quibble, it's a great invention.
Perfect fit for airpods
Posted by Pavel
The only way this could be designed more for the airpods is if it clipped onto the case and you could charge them together!
Posted by Bandini
Great for watching one iPad or airplane screen together without getting all tangled up in the cords. One thing I would recommend is setting up and testing before you leave home. Helps to reference the instruction manual if you need it and also saves you some time and panic when time comes to use it. I used it with two pairs of AirPods Pro at the same time and didn't have any problems.
Great battery life
Posted by max.
Battery was enough to watch an entire series of a show on LA-Singapore flight. Had to swap out my AirPods for my backup headphones but the transmitter lasted the full 17 hours.
I think it will work
Posted by ruff
Have not had a chance to use this device on a flight yet but I tested it with my fire tablet and it worked so I don't think it will have any problems.
Posted by SixtySeconds
If you think this thing looks like an airpods case, that's because it's essentially a scaled down carbon copy! Otherwise I like it a lot, it works well!
Flying... with AirPods
Posted by Alejandro
I have flown a lot with wired headphones and this is a huge improvement! Lets me use my AirPods so I don't have to bring an extra set of headphones!
Posted by wide_receiver
I've always used over head headphones in the gym, previously with a wire but my newest set doesn't have one. This device lets me continue to use the headphone jack on the treadmill with my new bluetooth headphones. Great item!
Sounds just like wired
Posted by Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Bought for my Sony WH1000XM3 headphones, which I normally use on flights with the cable. Unfortunately I left the cable on a plane, and it would have cost upwards of $20 to get a replacement cable from Sony. It made more sense to pay $40 for a Bluetooth transmitter than $23 for a length of wire.
I was worried that the sound quality would be diminished by switching to Bluetooth, but I don't hear any difference. The WH1000XM3 does support Hi Res audio though so your mileage may vary depending on the headphones you're using.
I didn't think of it at the time but there is also an added benefit to foregoing the wire for one of these - you can move about in your seat more freely, and even get up and go to the back of the plane without pausing whatever you're watching. If you fly a lot, that's worth the extra $20 in and of itself!
Great gift for the person who has everything...
Posted by Technoob
...especially if they travel a lot. I seem to have hit the spot with this one!
Needs RCA adapter, but great otherwise
Posted by DanFan
This device, with an inexpensive headphone jack to RCA adapter, helped me use my headphones with my bedroom TV. Now my wife can go to sleep without resigning me to reading tiny subtitles from 12 feet away.
The adapter solved two problems for me - first, maybe not all TVs have the audio jacks in the rear, but mine does, which makes it impossible to access the transmitter once it's connected. I got a 3 foot RCA adapter which is plenty long to solve this.
Second, the headphone jack on my TV shuts off the TV speakers, which is a problem if I don't want to unplug the transmitter every morning to use the TV normally the rest of the day. Using the RCA jacks on my TV avoids this issue as well.
The device itself works fine and was easy to pair with my Bose headphones. If your TV has a jack on the front, or you are using some other device, this would be an easy 5 stars. I knocked one off for the 10 bucks I had to spend on an adapter.
Posted by IamSpartacus
Works great, nifty gadget for my travel bag!
Great for plane travel
Posted by fuirai
Great alternative to bringing corded noise canceling headphones with you while traveling! This and my iPod Pros takes up so much less space!
Posted by Eszilla
Lets my friend and I both connect our Airpods to one tablet for movies and videos.
Posted by Leanne
Was not able to connect this to our TV. Called the company and they said because out TV is newer, we need another version with a different plug. Design looks very nice but did not work for us.
Great product but didn't need it!
Posted by Chelsea
Bought this to connect my AirPods to the plane for a long flight. Did everything right - allowed for plenty of time for it to arrive, paired and tested it with my AirPods beforehand, and really thought I had planned for every eventuality!
Well, the universe had other plans because the plane had no screens! Like, none at all - you were supposed to just use your phone or laptop instead. So my first actual use turned out to be a huge miss, but it wasn't the adapter's fault. The adapter is cute and was pretty easy to connect with my AirPods. Hope to get some use out of it in the future!
A new paradigm
Posted by traveler
It seems airlines go out of their way to make their own in-flight headphones as crappy as possible. Seriously, I would gladly pay $10 for something that's a semi-passable quality (e.g. JLAB or Skullcandy) instead of the current $5 they charge for the absolute worst earbuds you'll ever see.
Using the Connect Air with my AirPods Pro Gen 2 is a complete game changer from the wired earbuds sold by the airlines. This experience is not just not in the same ballpark, it's not even the same sport. I am never, ever flying without AirPods Pros again.
Must have device for travel
Posted by Jameson6x9
Spending $250+ on a pair of quality noise canceling headphones and then not being able to use them is a joke. Until airlines wisen up and offer Bluetooth on the entertainment screen, this is a must buy.
Great gift for travelers
Posted by Patricia B
My husband asked for a bluetooth device to connect his headphones while flying, and after some research I ended up getting this one. Worked out great, he said it was easy to use and works just as he had imagined!
Definitely worth the money
Posted by Sweet
I wasn't sure how to get this working with Airpods Max but after googling the instructions for pairing mode the setup took less than a minute. Basically, take the Airpods Max out of its case, then push the noise canceling button on the right side until the light flashes white. Once that's done, turn on the MEE by pressing the button, then once it powers on, put it in connection mode by double tapping the button. That's it! After 10 seconds or you'll be good to go.
Definitely recommended for anyone who flies with Airpods!
A must have for air travel
Posted by Allen Hernandez
Great product for air travel, don't have to carry the cord for my QC35s anymore. This thing takes up less space AND makes life easier during the flight (getting up, etc) with no noticeable loss in audio quality or anything else. Fantastic!
Great even for long flights
Posted by John Cheng
Fully charged managed to watch movies non stop from SZX to LAX with my Bose cans
Good but not perfect
Posted by King
Works as intended but has some audio lag
Good dual headphone transmitter
Posted by Ken
Used it on a plane so that my wife and could use separate Bluetooth headphones to watch movies from our computer. Worked like a charm!
Posted by Conner H
This product is really easy to set up and paired with AirPods Pro right away. Good sound. Highly recommend it.
The simplest way to add a Bluetooth speaker to a home theater
Posted by half man half shark
After looking at similar products for a while and realizing that none of them are designed to do exactly what I want, I pulled the trigger on this one just to give it a shot. I was looking for something that would allow me to add two Bluetooth speakers, placed outdoors, to my home theater system which is indoors, so I could continue listening outside. The transmission distance is not far - just outside the patio door - but I wanted a device that would let me designate my two Bluetooth speakers as "Left" and "Right" for correct placement. Unfortunately from my research, it appears such a device does not exist.
I was able to connect two Bluetooth speakers quite easily to this device, but both of them are playing in stereo mode, rather than as a discrete left/right. This creates a little bit of an echo, but this may also be because I am using two slightly different models of Sony speakers, or maybe because the distance to each of the speakers is not exactly even. If placed some distance apart the echo is imperceptible. In any case, while not 100% what I wanted, this device seems to be the best of what's available and I am now able to keep listening to my audio outside!
May need 2-prong adapter for overseas flights
Posted by Amir
Ok so as noted in all the other reviews, this thing works great and all, but please beware that it has a regular stereo headphone connector while some flights (mostly outside the US, as far as I know) still use the older 2-prong style.
My experience has been as follows:
Domestic flights in the US - all either use a stereo connector or don't have a screen at all and force you to BYO device
International flight from the US - the plane used the older 2-prong style but the airline I was on (KLM) offered the adapters for free
International flight in Europe - the plane used the 2-prong style and adapters were not handed out. Luckily I kept mine from the international flight.
International flight back to the US - this time the plane had the right type of connector and the adapter was not needed.
So in my case, I was lucky to have gotten a free adapter on my way to Europe, otherwise I would not have been able to use this device on short-haul overseas flights. But if you plan to do a lot of connecting flights outside the US, maybe plan ahead and buy a 2-prong adapter.
easy to use
Posted by Louis Muennink
easy to pair with air pods, and use at the gym
MEE Audio Connect Air vs TwelveSouth AirFly Pro
Posted by Alex
I have tried both products and they both have similar audio delay (less than 100ms and similar build quality and size, but the MEE Audio Connect Air simply sounds better.
Twelve South AirFly Pro:
- Has a keychain loop
MEE Audio Connect Air:
- Easier interface/setup
- Slightly better sound quality
The main difference between the two is that when you plug in or touch the Twelve South AirFly Pro, every static click is audible, just like any low-quality wired headphone. The MEE Audio Connect Air did not have this problem and you only hear the audio from the screen like you're supposed to.
good for long flights
Posted by Janet
made long-haul flights a smidge more tolerable as I can now use my airpods
Game changer for flights
Posted by Mandy
Easy enough to setup and lets you charge and watch the same time unlike the one I bought before this. This is a must have feature for me. Great device.
Connecting to Bose sound canceling earbuds…
Posted by Jeong-Ho
Very easy to connect to my Bose noise canceling headphones and the range is good enough to go to the furthest tail restroom on an AirBus A380. Good product, easy to use and feels well-designed. Not the cheapest of its type but worth the premium price tag for the same reason one would buy Bose over cheap noise canceling headphones.
made for Apple earbuds
Posted by Grigory
From the obviously... ahem... shall we say "Apple-inspired" design... it is clear that this was made for Apple wireless earbuds
Pairing was easy just following the included instructions step by step and it works as advertised... haven't been on a flight long enough to see how long the charge lasts... yet
But so far so good
Easy pairing with earphones
Posted by Mariana from AZ
I purchased this to use during an upcoming international flight. It was easy to pair with my earpods but I have not used it yet. I will update the review after my trip and using this device.
Didn't realize it doesn't come charged
Posted by Michael Russell
Maybe this is my bad but I assumed the device came charged. It only had a bit of battery out of the box and I stupidly didn't bring the charging cable AND it's not the same connector as my iphone charger. So I had it die a few hours into an international flight :(
Works like a charm
Posted by Shirley
When planning my first post-pandemic flight I realized that I haven't owned wired headphones in a few years! Thought about picking up a fresh set of wired earbuds but that just seems wrong in 2022. Started researching ways to use Bluetooth headpones on a plane and ended up with this little guy. Glad I planned ahead because I am sure I would have been in a panic buying a new device at the airport, but this way I had time to pair and try it out ahead of time (highly recommended).
In the end I am happy with my decision and will now be able to use my wireless headphones on an airplane like a modern tech person.
Must have travel gadget
Posted by T.K.O.
Bought these after seeing a fellow traveler using one on a cross-country flight. He was enjoying his AirPods while I was stuck using the free headset. Best advertising you can possibly get!
I realize this is not the cheapest device of its type but I fly 20+ times a year so the cost per flight is basically $2, which comes out to less than the in-flight wifi to use my iPad instead. Good deal and good product!
I think it will work great
Posted by Nathan G.
Purchased for an upcoming flight. It connected easily to my Galaxy Buds 2 and I tested it with the headphone jack on my laptop so I know it works, but haven't had a chance to use it on an actual airplane yet. Seems like a handy device to have around and it's small enough to just keep in my travel bag!
Works with gen 3 Airpods
Posted by AA Deadhead
My previous transmitter (purchased from an online retailer whose founder's name rhymes with "Tezos"), which cost 25 bucks and served me for many years on many flights, finally started to show its age when faced with my new 3rd-gen Airpods. It simply refused to connect to them (must be the age gap).
After a little bit of digging, it seemed like I was not alone in facing this problem, and that it was perhaps time for an upgrade. Read a review on another retailer's site (rhymes with "blessed by") that said this model worked specifically with 3rd gen Airpods, and I can confidently confirm that indeed it does!
A few minutes after receiving it, I was in business. So far, the main differences between this and my old $25 unit are 1) the fact that it works with my AirPods and 2) the battery life, which is at least 15 hours as I'm 2 flights in without recharging it and it's still showing 2 "bars" of battery.
I expect that I may have to replace it 10 years down the line when it no longer pairs with my Airpods XII Max, but until then I hope to remain a happy camper.