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As we see trains nowadays with sockets for you to plug your laptop into, as well as Wi-Fi on-board both trains and planes, I'm wondering why you don't see electrical outlets on planes?

Do any airlines have sockets in the cabin? How about in first class?

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  • $\begingroup$ Plenty of aircraft have USB power, which powers a majority of portable devices these days. Or are you asking specifically about mains power? And if so, which standard? $\endgroup$ – Greg Hewgill Apr 18 '14 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ greg has a point nearly every country has a different standard for its plugs, and you have to be carefull of 110V vs. 220V $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Apr 18 '14 at 7:54
  • $\begingroup$ I've multiple types of mains power on aircraft, though in Economy they might be deliberately missing or hidden in obscure locations (e.g. under the seat in front). $\endgroup$ – Qantas 94 Heavy Apr 18 '14 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ As a matter of curiosity, some 747-100 and -200 aircraft had a 115v electrical outlet in the cockpit. However, it was as I remember 400 cycles. We plugged our laptops in occasionally, and that worked fine. $\endgroup$ – Terry Sep 19 '14 at 23:45
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This depends on the airline, but to answer your question: Yes, some airlines do have electrical outlets in the cabin. It seems that since the FAA relaxed the rules on portable devices that the airlines are seeing the need to add them to more of their fleet.

For example:

There are different types of outlets, and some of them require an adapter to use while others don't.

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  • $\begingroup$ A long time ago, probably 12 years or so, I was on a 747 from Hawaii, where I lived, to NY - and I remember having a 12v outlet under my seat. It was the only time I ever saw an outlet in an airliner. $\endgroup$ – Keegan Sep 21 '14 at 3:09
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Several of the answers here seem to suggest that this only happens in first or business class. While that was historically true, it's not so true anymore. Airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Korean Air, for instance, have them at every seat in most (or all?) of their long-haul aircraft. Delta also has it in parts of economy on several of their long-haul configurations as well as in all of economy on their recently-acquired 717s and 737-900ERs. You can check with your specific airline or with sites like Seat Guru before booking to determine what is available on any given aircraft and at which seats.

As Lnafziger said, some airlines' systems require adapters, while others don't. At least from personal experience, it seems that most of the recent ones do not. On Korean Air, Cathay, and Delta, the plugs are designed to be able to fit any of the standard power plug types (e.g. North American, European, Asian, etc.) Since most new electronic devices use auto-switching power supplies, they should accept the 110V/60Hz supplied by most of these systems, even if they're designed for 220V/50Hz markets.

Here's a picture of one of the outlets in economy on the Delta 717s. Notice that the holes are cut such that any of the standard plug types will fit in it. The slot on the bottom is a USB power port. Delta 717 Power Outlet in Economy

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Some EMB-145 models have a 120v AC outlet mounted in the cabin just below the cockpit door. This was powered by an inverter (EMB-145 is 100% DC busses). It wasn't for passenger use (primarily for cleaning crews) and I didn't trust the power coming out of it enough to plug in a laptop, though we sometimes did charge our phones with it.

Some larger airplanes have 120v AC in the cabin mounted at a subset of seats. I can't recall which airlines, but I have been in a 757 and a corporate CRJ-700 that had this kind of power installed.

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  • $\begingroup$ For some airlines (such as Cathay Pacific, for instance,) that subset is every single seat. $\endgroup$ – reirab May 14 '14 at 16:52
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To answer your question of "why don't you see them," I think it comes down to power requirements.

As mentioned, new-ish first/business class generally will have outlets available. You can explore different aircraft here.

The reason it's not available in every seat is capacity. If you have 150 people pulling 75W, that's 11.25 kW. On a 737 NG, each of the two generators is rated at 90KVA. However, they need most of that power to run the radio equipment, avionics, lights, galleys, window heat, entertainment system, and everything else on the plane that runs on electrical power. So besides a possible upgrade of the generators/power system, this also adds the weight of running cables and having outlets at every seat. It's a lot easier to do that sort of thing on a train car, where it doesn't have to fly and can get power from the locomotive.

You can find more about the 737 electric system here.

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    $\begingroup$ I had it on a flight with Cathay Pacific in economy class. Power was intermittent, but I could do the whole HK-Paris flight (about 12h) with my laptop on. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Dec 20 '14 at 20:24
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They are universally available since maybe 10 to 15 years, but only in Business and First, and normally would accept both US and European plugs. In Economy you are out of luck, but if you consider that most airlines have reduced Economy seating pitch to the minimum 31", laptop use is near impossible there, anyway.

I have seen one instance a few years ago on an older 747 where they had a proprietary socket and would hand out adapters for the different laptops. Naturally, the adapter kit was of the same age and unusable on some modern laptops.

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    $\begingroup$ Several airlines have A/C power in economy on their long-haul aircraft, though it is less common on aircraft configured for short-haul flights. $\endgroup$ – reirab May 14 '14 at 16:53
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Power Sockets are getting pretty common these days. Most of the Widebodies (specially 777 and 380's have power outlets for 2 out of 3 Seats in each row). The Power Ratings also are 110V 60Hz commonly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Who are you being contrary to? $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Feb 27 '15 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ I was contradicting the question itself as it said "I'm wondering why you don't see electrical outlets on planes?" $\endgroup$ – GoldPacific Apr 1 '15 at 23:43

protected by Farhan Feb 27 '15 at 13:33

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