Inflight power: even the cheap seats have it now

George Hobica, March 24, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Now that more airlines are offering in-flight internet access, Airfarewatchdog was wondering how we're going to make sure our various devices don't run out of power aloft. So what's the "current" state of in flight power? Is it still a perk only available to the premium class passenger, or do we economy class flyers also get to play?  

    Many types of aircraft are equipped with power ports in each seat so that passengers can operate our growing list of electronic gadgets, such as cell phones, ipods, and of course our laptops, netbooks, and so on. We've even seen people using hair dryers and shavers on planes. For a long time this perk has been mostly confined to first and business class. Now, the trend is changing and many airlines offer power outlets in their economy class cabins as well. However, these outlets are more widely available on longer international flights than on domestic ones. One exception is Virgin America, a leader in implementing in-flight technology, offering a standard 120V outlet at every seat. Continental offers such outlets in economy class on select 737's.

    Before you go on your next flight hoping to power your laptop there are a few things you should know:

    There are 3 different types of outlets, depending on your aircraft:

    1.) AC power- This is your standard outlet just like the one you use on the ground, and the easiest to use.

    Here is the list of airlines and aircraft that offer AC power in Economy Class:

    American Boeing 737-800 Vers. 2 (738) Domestic Routes

    American Boeing 757-200 Vers. 2 (757) Domestic Routes

    Continental Boeing 737-900ER (73E)  Domestic Routes

    Continental Boeing 757-200 (752) International Routes

    Continental Boeing 777-200ER (777) International Routes

    Delta Boeing 777-200 ex-TWA (75E) International Routes

    Delta Boeing 767-400ER Vers. 2 (76D) International Routes

    Delta Boeing 767-400ER Vers. 1 (76C) International Routes

    Delta Boeing 777-200LR (77L) International Routes

    Delta Boeing 777-200ER (777) International Routes

    United Boeing 757-200 p.s. (757) Premium Service

    Virgin America Airbus A319 (319) All Service

    Delta Airbus A330-300 (330, 333) International Routes

    Delta Airbus A330-200 (332) International Routes

    Delta Airbus 757-200 (5600 Series) -Pacific International Routes

    2.) Cigarette DC power- This is the power port like the one you use in your car. You can purchase adapters online or at local electronics stores. We've even see them at stores like Walmart or Target. These adapters are called power inverters. They start at around $15, but choose wisely because you'll need one that can handle up to 75 watts, which is what many laptops draw.

                Airlines and aircraft that use DC Power in Economy Class:

    American Airbus A300-600 (AB6) Domestic Routes

    American Boeing 737-800 Vers. 1 (738) Domestic Routes

    American Boeing 757-200 Vers. 1 (757) Domestic Routes

    American Boeing 767-200 (762) Domestic Routes

    American Boeing 767-300 (763) Domestic Routes

    American McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Vers. 2 (M80) Domestic Routes

    American McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Vers. 1 (M80) Domestic Routes

    3.) EM Power- The power option most frequently used on airlines (mostly outside the US); requires an adapter that you can buy. If you have a DC inverter you can purchase an Em Power adapter for $13 from Magellan's. Otherwise Kensington and Targus offer models starting at around $60 that are compatible both for DC and Em Power outlets.

    Examples of airlines and aircraft that use DC Power in economy class:

    Continental Boeing 767-200 (762) Domestic & International Routes

    Continental Boeing 767-400 High Density (76H) Domestic & International Routes

    Even if you see that your plane is equipped with power outlets, they might only available in certain seats. Make sure you check Seatguru for more information or simply click on any of the aircraft links in the above charts.

    Outlets can only handle 75 watts of power. So if you have a larger sized laptop, it might not be enough power to boot up your machine. Some airlines like Continental will specifically tell you to take out the battery and run on power only, because as you might have heard, batteries have exploded in flight, and we don't want fires at 35,000 feet.

    Sometimes you will have to ask the inflight crew to turn on the power since it is sometimes shut off for take off and landing.

    With newer technology coming out everyday, you might not even need to to charge your laptop except on those extra long international flights. The new Mac Book Pro claims to have 7 hours of battery life, which is plenty for most domestic flights. But if you're working on your laptop for more than 7 or 8 hours next time you fly, perhaps it's time to slow down, read a good book, and recharge yourself, rather than your laptop.