In-Flight Power and Wi-Fi for Your Laptop - dummies

In-Flight Power and Wi-Fi for Your Laptop

By Dan Gookin

The airlines are making changes that will hopefully make it easier for you to fly with your laptop. The most significant issues you will probably face while flying concern power and Wi-Fi access.

Air power

The airlines have heard your cries for help, or at least those cries for in-flight power. Many commercial jets now offer AC power on many flights for use with your laptop. Three power plans are available:

  • 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 car power adapter / EmPower adapter — an “adapter.”

  • AC power: This is the type of power is provided by the standard U.S. or European power outlet.

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

Power adapters aren’t universal. You need to ask the airlines whether your flight has a power adapter you can use and, furthermore, whether your seat is near a power adapter. An extra fee may also be involved, though most of these adapters are in either the business or first-class section, so you probably already paid the extra fee when you overpaid for your ticket.

  • In-flight power is great, but without it, your laptop runs just fine on its own battery.

  • If your laptop’s battery can’t survive the entire trip, get a spare battery or a secondary charger.

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

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

  • Shhhh! Apparently, the 747 aircraft has a standard U.S. wall socket located near one of its exit doors. Cleaning crews use the socket to plug in the vacuum cleaner, but you can probably sneak your laptop into that socket during a flight.

In-flight Wi-Fi

Many airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi service. It might be free, but it’s probably not. Either way, your laptop can access the signal just as it does at the local coffeehouse.

First, because you are flying in a plane, ensure that Airplane mode is active.

Second, enable the laptop’s Wi-Fi radio. In Windows 10, click the Airplane Mode notification icon, and then click the Wi-Fi tile to turn on the Wi-Fi radio.

Third, connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi base station. It’s probably the only Wi-Fi signal you’ll see on the screen.

Finally, use the laptop’s web browser to navigate to any web page. You’ll be redirected to the in-flight sign-up page. That’s where you either accept the terms or fork over a credit card number to access the service.

  • Specific directions for accessing in-flight Wi-Fi are usually found in the seat pocket in front of you.

  • The in-flight Wi-Fi providers don’t like you using Skype or similar programs to make phone calls, but that doesn’t really seem to stop anyone.

  • Even though in-flight Wi-Fi is offered, that doesn’t mean it works. There are spots where the signal drops off, such as remote locations and over the ocean when you’re flying overseas. So if you’re on a superlong flight over an ocean, don’t get suckered into paying for in-flight Wi-Fi.