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Mobile Power Options on Airplanes

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Power outlets in airplane seats are becoming more common, as airlines are recognizing the need to satisfy not just business users, but the growing population of mobile device enthusiasts as well. These outlets allow you to charge your laptop, cell phone, or other device while flying, saving you the stress of your battery dying while working on the plane.

What You Need

Unfortunately you can't just plug your current power adapter into the outlet located in your seat divider; you need to get a special air power adapter that works with your specific laptop/device. At $100 or more, these adapters may be most relevant to frequent fliers, though some of the adapters can also be used as car chargers, making them a better value for road warriors in general.

Some airplane adapters work only with specific devices, but there are also several universal mobile power options. The Kensington power adapter I bought a few years ago, for example, has removable adapter tips for different laptop models (I had ones for a Dell laptop and a Gateway tablet) and even a "y-adapter" that allows you to charge two devices at once. Unfortunately, adapter tips for my current laptop and cell phone are not available for this specific power adapter. There are newer mobile power options available, however. Here are some makers of universal air adapters:

  • iGo: One of the most popular universal charger makers. They have chargers for laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices (some versions power all three device types) compatible with most major brands.
  • Kensington: Also has a lot of power adapter options, including laptop adapters, mobile device chargers, and inverters. They have wall/auto/air versions (as well as other combinations) for major notebooks, cell phones/PDAs, and also devices like the PSP, Creative Zen, and the iPod.
  • Targus: Offers a universal wall/auto/air power adapter compatible with over 6,000 notebooks.

Tips:

  • Make sure the adapter information says it supports your specific laptop model, and get the right tip for it.
  • Before you fly or buy your plane ticket, check if the airplane has power outlets available. For US domestic flights, go to seatguru.com for detailed seating charts by plane that identify power outlets. For international flights, the information may be available on the airline's website.
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