How to Power Your Laptop on an Airplane

The airlines have heard your cries for help, and many of them now offer AC power so you can use your laptop on many flights. Three power plans are now available:

  • AC power: This is the power you’re used to, provided with a standard U.S. or European power outlet. Sometimes it’s a two-prong outlet, and sometimes there’s a grounding plug.

  • Cigarette DC power: This kind of power is the same as what’s offered in your car, with what is still curiously called the cigarette lighter. You need a cigarette power adapter to use this type of power with your laptop.

  • EmPower DC power: The most common type of laptop electricity available on airlines is EmPower. You need a special EmPower adapter to use this system, or you can use a cigarette power adapter / EmPower adapter — an adapter adapter.

Note that the power adapters aren’t universal. You need to ask the airlines whether your flight has a power adapter you can use, and, furthermore, to ensure that your seat is near a power adapter. An extra fee may also be involved, although most of these adapters are in Business or First Class, so you may have already paid the extra fee when you bought your ticket.

Remember that your laptop comes with batteries. Use them whenever power isn’t available. Just because the airplane lacks something to plug into for power doesn’t spell doom for your laptop computing abilities aloft.

  • Cigarette and EmPower adapters are available wherever laptop goodies are sold. Also check the iGo Web site.

  • AC means alternating current. It’s the same type of power that comes out of the wall in your home or office.

  • DC means direct current, which is the type of power you get from a battery.