Many people are celebrating the proliferation of onboard WiFi on U.S. domestic flights these days, but there is a dark side to this trend. The availability of power outlets is not keeping up, and countless web surfers find themselves running out of battery power halfway across the country. Fear not, you can avoid this same fate by choosing your airline wisely.
Let’s start with the easy ones. The following airlines don’t have a single power outlet anywhere on their fleets:
With the five legacy carriers, it gets a little more complicated.
You’ll almost be guaranteed to find a powerport on your American flight, but finding a seat that actually has an outlet is the tricky part.
Of all the aircraft in American’s fleet, only a handful of their 757s lack power. All other aircraft have it, and most have the cigarette lighter-style outlet, so make sure you grab an adapter. If you’re in first class, you’ll have your own outlet, but in coach, it becomes a little more of a hunt. There are two outlets for every three seats in the rows that have power. They tend to be up at the front of the plane, but then it spreads out to be in every couple of rows toward the back. See SeatGuru for details.
The airline’s newest 737s that are rolling off the assembly line actually have standard power outlets in every single row. It is reported that some 757s have that as well, but you’ll never know if that will be the case in advance. Right now, that’s a small portion of the fleet.
Continental offers decent availability, and it varies a lot by fleet. The older 737-300s and -500s as well as the 757-300s have no power onboard. Some of the 737-700 and -800 aircraft and all 737-900 aircraft have regular power outlets that require no adapter, but you won’t know in advance about your airplane. First class passengers have their own adapters, but on most of these planes, only the front half of the coach cabin is equipped with two outlets per set of three seats.
Delta, including the Northwest fleet, has very spotty powerport availability. On domestic runs, only the 737 fleet, the 767-300s, and the transcontinental 757s have regular power outlets in first class, and rarely in the front of the coach cabin.
Those aircraft with in seat video (some 757s and 737s) have USB ports to charge small electronics, but that won’t help for your laptop.
United has very few airplanes with power outlets onboard. On the domestic fleet, some 757s and A320s have EmPower outlets in First class but not in coach. Only the p.s. 757s which fly between New York and both LA and San Francisco have regular outlets throughout. There is a single 757 that is being tested with power throughout the plane but plans to roll that out elsewhere in the fleet have not been announced.
US Airways has virtually no power outlet availability onboard. On the international fleet, First class has regular outlets (767) or EmPower outlets (A330/757). Though many of the A319/A320/A321 aircraft had powerports, they have all been disabled. You won’t find power on any domestic US Airways aircraft these days unless you happen to find yourself on a random domestic flight on an international airplane.
One other thing to note here. None of the regional airlines have powerports onboard. With these guys flying longer and longer legs, that may eventually become an issue, but nobody has addressed it yet. Good luck to all.
Brett Snyder is the author of the award-winning consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier. He also writes as an airline industry analyst for BNET Travel. You can usually find him milling around his home airport in Long Beach.
[Photo by Galego/Creative Commons]