Airlines Start Getting Smart About Power Outlets Onboard

It’s been incredible watching every airline scramble to figure out when and on what planes to install internet. As more and more airlines get wi-fi up and running on more and more planes, they need to address the closely-related problem that has been ignored for too long. How can people power up? American and United are both starting to get serious about addressing the issue, and we should all be happy.

American recently took delivery of a new 737-800. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was making such a big deal about this, especially since they already fly a bunch of them. But these 737s are configured differently. Yes, they’ve crammed two more rows of seats on these planes (claiming that the seats are thinner so the experience is no different, but I can’t verify without sitting in it myself). The big news, however, is that there are now two power outlets for every set of three seats on board in coach.

Admittedly, American has been ahead of many when it comes to power, but this is a big step forward. Not only will there be two for every three seats (and one per seat in First Class), but these are regular 110V outlets, not those annoying cigarette lighter ones that require an adapter. Of course, they say wi-fi will be coming soon on these planes – these go hand in hand.

Then we have United. The airline is testing a modified 757 which will look somewhat similar to the American product. There will be thinner seats (all leather) so they can squeeze in an extra row of seats. But United has also decided to put two power outlets per row of three and one per seat in First Class. These are also standard 110V outlets that require no adapter. This is only on one test plane, but I can’t imagine them bothering with this test if they didn’t have real plans to implement it on a broader scale.

This is all great news. Airlines have finally come to the realization that this is something that’s really important to travelers, especially if they’re going to be able to connect to the internet onboard. Of course, Virgin America launched with power outlets like this, and they’ll be done installing inflight internet on every plane within a month. So this can be considered “closing the gap” for the legacy guys, but it’s a welcome change that hopefully everyone will adopt.

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