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November 18, 2015

Air Power

Filed under: Main — Tags: , — admin @ 12:01 am

For centuries now, I’ve admonished mobile users to charge up before leaving on a long airplane trip. Apparently that’s no longer necessary.

On my recent trip to San Diego, lo and behold, the seat in front of me sported a USB/wall socket charging port, shown in Figure 1. I was floored.

Figure 1. The USB/Power port on my recent Alaska Air trip.

Figure 1. The USB/Power port on my recent Alaska Air trip.

So, obviously, the first thing I did was to charge.

I didn’t have my laptop with me (because it’s dead), but I did have my Nexus 9 tablet. So I hooked up the USB cable and, lo, it began to charge.

Now I do read my own books, so the tablet was fully charged before I left. Yet, I confirmed that the device was receiving a charge by checking the battery icon: The lightning bolt confirmed that, indeed, power was streaming through the seatback charging gizmo.

I was delighted.

As you can see from Figure 1, the device accepts a USB cable, but also a standard wall connector. The holes available indicate that international plugs work as well.

The lady sitting next to me took advantage of the charger as well, but out of habit she plugged her iPhone’s USB cable into the charging adapter, then plugged the adapter into the socket. Silly iPhone users: The adapter was unnecessary.

My delight was short-lived, however, as — new rule! — you must disconnect any cords from the charger during takeoff and landing. A flight attendant will remind you. So belts on, devices unplugged. Otherwise, the connection works great and, well, it’s about time!

The only other thing I could desire aloft would be free Internet. I know, I know: Some airlines offer it. I think they all should, especially if they don’t provide those seatback entertainment systems.

In fact, when I flew home, I splurged and upgraded to First Class. To my surprise, they didn’t hand out free inflight Wi-Fi passwords to the First Class passengers, which I always assumed they did. No matter, I just played games and goofed off, which is what about 90 percent of those folks with laptops and tablets do on a plane anyway.


  1. Hmmm, I know Wi-Fi is expected today but I used to use travelling as stare at the cieling time, to decompress and maybe read dead wood. These days Wi-Fi is everywhere Trains, boats & possibly planes! I would have thought the 2.4MHz wave band was used by some comms on the plane but it’s only a matter of time. Using USB ports I am always a little suspicious of since I fried the USB on my first Palm there is only a minimum current spec not a max so some ports will give as much current as the device will sink. If the device is a little flakey (such as my Palm) it can draw more current and it gets sunk via the power regulator that can burn out and so will fail open circuit and draw a lot of current that get passed around to the next device in the chain and pop! Short answer I always try to use a power adaptor!!

    Comment by glennp — November 18, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  2. Ah, a wise choice, and something I didn’t consider. Even then, if you charge before you go, you don’t need power on the plane.

    Comment by admin — November 18, 2015 @ 2:22 pm

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