Simple Trick for Airline Seat Power

I’ve found that power outlets on planes ‘wear out’ and it’s hard to get your power cord to stay in the socket, sometimes I’m jiggling the cord to get the perfect goldilocks spot — not too far in, not too far out, the plug has to be just right in order to pull any juice.

This happens to me most often — by orders of magnitude — on American Airlines and I’ve even experienced it with their new delivery aircraft.

But there’s a simple solution to improve the chances that you can use the outlet at your seat successfully… without having to find the perfect spot, and hold the cord in place for the length of your flight.

I carry a U.K. power adapter in my bag. I plug that adapter into the outlet at my seat, and then plug my power cord into it. The UK adapter’s prongs aren’t worn out as often, and the three prongs hold the adapter in place in the outlet.

You can find one for literally just two or three dollars, I just toss it in my laptop bag, and pull it out when I am having a problem getting power out of a seemingly-working (‘green light on’) outlet at my seat.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve had this issue on AA flights. Can’t blame flight attendants for it of course but it is frustrating when I report there is a problem and they say “no there can’t be, the green light is on.”

  2. I’ve done something similar. The best device I had was the Citi Executive Card promotional power strip that was being given out at Admirals Clubs when the card first came out. But sadly, I left mine in the O’Hare Admirals Club about a year ago.

  3. But won’t disseminating this info cause all of the holes to wear out now? BLOGGERS RUINING ALL THE DEALS

  4. It’s unreal how often it happens on AA!!! Constantly!! But not only on the planes, it even happens in their Admirals Clubs! What the hell do they use for outlets??

  5. If you are a Mac user then carry the French/European adapter. Not only does it fit better, but it spaces the power brick away from the seat so it can fit correctly. I used to carry the U.K. adapter but it does not help with the spacing issue.

  6. Not just AA. I have this happen on nearly all carriers. I did a bit of research and evidently it’s because the aircraft manufacturers don’t want everyone taking all the juice, all the time…
    OK, so I did no research and all that was made up, but I can’t think of any other reason….

  7. Just experienced this for the first time on a10 hour plus Madrid to Miami in early March. I was fidgeting so much with my laptop cord my neighbors across the aisle must have wondered what was wrong with me!

  8. I always fly with a UK and an EU adapter, just in case. It’s not just that the UK type is less used, the larger plug and pins are more stable and less prone to wear.

    I prefer the specialized ones because they’re reliably grounded, they don’t have any plastic sliders or hinges, and they’re much smaller than the convertible types.

  9. Sounds like date night:

    ‘”it’s hard to get your power cord to stay in the socket, sometimes I’m jiggling the cord to get the perfect goldilocks spot — not too far in, not too far out, the plug has to be just right in order to pull any juice:

  10. Ade,
    Heard the same from an FA. Power is only on a limited number of outlets at a time and they rotate.

  11. Me too… I use my type G Plug adapter. They got a tighter fit and less likely to fall out.

  12. What a clever tip. I have a three in 1 adapter although I’ve most often used the pen trick (pen in bottom) to use European plugs in British plugs on planes. They usually fit a bit more snuggly than the British plug.

  13. I’ll second the power strip comment. Far more useful than merely using an adapter, as it gets a solid grip AND lets both you and any seatmate charge a device. Stack it with a foreign power adapter when necessary.

    Unfortunately, none of this fixes the planes/seats (generally the old cigarette lighter power port) where the power output is dirty/unreliable. On these, I can sometimes get a low voltage device charging (e.g. phone), but my laptop frequently stops charging after anywhere from a few minutes to about 40 minutes. Sometimes I cannot even get my phone to charge. :/

  14. Big problem for United seats, too – can’t imagine AA is worse as United is terrible, especially for Mac power.

    My tip is get a standard American 2 prong to 3 prong adapter (the small grey ones that are common) – their prongs are big and long and often far better in seat outlets than at least the Mac power units.

    Note you can also get the UK or EU/French Mac Power head instead of an adapter, so just swap out your USA one, too. Easy to get on Amazon.

  15. Best travel tip in a while! United Airlines has the same issue – if you’re lucky enough to have at-seat power offered on the flight at all.

  16. Great tip. Was on an Air Italy flight and a United flight and a UK adapter was a life saver. You can also buy USB chargers with UK plugs.

  17. But how do you get around your plug pushing in the little button that turns the light from green to red, turning off the power in the outlet?

  18. Genius!

    I have had this issue on every airline. Of course it’s been 6+ years since this post and any new/updated planes outlets have worn out at this point.

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