United Passenger Whips Out Full Size iMac In Coach, Works Entire Flight Like A Boss

Last week a man on board a United Airlines flight sat in his coach seat and pulled out a full-sized iMac to work. A standard United coach seat has just 30 inches of pitch – the distance from seat back to seat back – making this impossible most of the time.

This passenger had planned ahead, though, because he had an exit row seat. And he wasn’t even being impolite to a seat mate, because the middle seat next to him was empty. Remember this isn’t a laptop. He was lucky there was seat power on the aircraft!

Last summer a passenger pulled out a sewing machine and proceeded to make curtains from their seat. That’s still the biggest power move I’ve seen on a plane.

Thirty yeas ago I was just entering college. Since I was new on the then-national champion CEDA debate team, I was charged with carrying the team Mac on board flights as my carry on. Freshmen used to have to take turns sleeping at tournaments, so that someone was always working before the next day’s rounds. Another team might surprise us with a new take on the topic once but unlike the rest of the country we weren’t going to wait until the next weekend to be prepared.

The one thing we couldn’t do, though, was work on the plane. There was no suitable seat power back then, and we didn’t have laptops. I assumed the days of lugging around a full-sized computer – in coach, no less – were long gone. I was mistaken.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. So, was the real purpose of this story to allow Gary to tell everyone he was on a national champion debate team in college? 😉

  2. I wonder if anyone ever tried to use the original Compaq “portable” on a plane? Did require power though, as it didn’t have batteries. And was 30 pounds or so, complete with it’s own little CRT built into the case. But you could use it while waiting for the plane. And you certainly weren’t going to check it – fragile, and worth over $8000 in today’s money.

    My friend told me it had the nickname of “Huggable Luggable” – the junior guy on the trips got to haul it out to the field, where they ran it off generator power.

  3. I used to have an old Data General, laptop/portable, that did have a battery but in those days it would have only lasted 15 to 30 minutes max without power. Of course I could have just used the airphone and called home instead 🙂

    This dude with the full-size mac is fun but every passenger in the three rows behind him would also be reading over his shoulder I’d think.

  4. @C_M: My father had one of those Compaq portables around 1985, complete with monochrome screen and 5.25″ floppy disk drive. He did, indeed, take it on business flights, but I’m guessing no in-flight work was involved.

    As a budding writer, I was so inspired by the machine that for Christmas I asked for an electronic word processor, which I did receive from “Santa.” To my recollection, it had the astounding ability to store several sentences of data before actually printing. Years later, I was the first student in my college courses ever to bring a laptop to class; fellow students gawked as if I had brought in the holy grail. Ah, the good old days.

  5. You have to question this individual’s mindset. Of course, we got an obvious clue from the application of the face diaper.

  6. American Airlines (AA) allows one carry-on bag and one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee free. Carry-on should not exceed the following size and weight restrictions: 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm), including handles and wheels. Does the 27-inch iMac measuring 25.6 inches wide, 20.3 inches tall, and 8 inches deep, conveniently fit in the 22 x 14 x 9-inch baggage sizer?

  7. @James N – Really? Really? Let it go man… there are more important things in this world… Like how am I going to get my 32″ screen on my next flight hooked up to my laptop.

  8. James N …It’s my belief that worrying about Covid now is silly, it really is mostly a cold unless you are unvaxed and even then it’s mostly those with underlining medical issues. That said recently my wife was scheduled for a surgery, not serious but important. So I wore an N95 whenever I was around large groups of people just to reduce the risk to her. In your mind that apparently defines me as foolish. In my mind ,people that think they can define others so easily without knowing the full story are the fools.

  9. @James N- so people who live with family members who have cancer should not try to do the most to avoid getting covid? Do you demand that the doctors who perform surgery on you remove their masks? You should make it a rule to never see any medical professional that wears any type of face covering.

  10. Well, I think we’ve determined which of the commentators would follow the lead of the “fool” wearing the face diaper.

  11. When you call a mask a ‘face diaper’ you sound like a genuine idiot.

    I completely understand not wanting to wear a mask. I do not understand not wanting someone else to wear one. [I understand thinking it is silly to wear a mask jogging outdoors alone, but that aside.]

    Cloth masks? Sure those don’t do much, they met the requirement when there was one so it made sense for those who wanted to do the bare minimum for compliance.

    I don’t understand wearing a medical mask now to protect oneself from Covid – an N95, sure, a P100 that makes sense to me.

    You have no idea someone’s personal circumstances. Maybe they haven’t had it yet and they’re immunocompromised. Maybe they are going to be spending time with others who are especially vulnerable. Maybe they just don’t wan to get sick, even before Covid I thought about wearing a mask during flu season because I figured it would help me from catching flu and who wants that?

    At this point whether or not to protect yourself (or to wear something that may be less protective) is up to you. But denigrating someone for it? That just makes no sense at all.

  12. Just being diabetic, which I am, is a large risk factor for Covid. So is asthma, as are a lot of other chronic health problems. I was very lucky to have dodged a bullet this time.

    It’s not “just a bad cold” either. I just watched my wife go through two weeks of Covid. She’s still exhausted and sleeps half the day away. So believe what you want and maybe not be so judgemental?

  13. James N, this article was about using a computer during a flight. This article had nothing to do with masks yet you brought it up. Sounds as if the wearing of a mask is one of the biggest issues in your life. Sounds as if you have a chip on your shoulder. Sounds as if you have no empathy for someone — as Gary mentioned — who has a medical condition that puts the person at risk. I had a cousin with such a medical condition who died from COVID. I have a niece with a heart condition whose doctor has advised that she wear a mask while traveling. But, you seem unable to get past your dogma.

  14. Well said Gary…the ultimate irony is the people that screamed “mask mandates infringe on my rights, it should be personal choice!.”….then criticize someone making a personal choice to wear a mask.

  15. “When you call a mask a ‘face diaper’ you sound like a genuine idiot.”

    Thankfully, I only “sound” like one, you on the other hand…

    If you remove Covid from the equation and simply look at someone carrying an iMac on an airplane, prior to March, 2020, most rational individuals would have questioned that person’s “mindset”. Now, applying the Covid theater to this situation, along with substantial evidence that masks do nothing to stop a respiratory virus, I’m simply pointing out that this particular individual made an interesting choice with both the computer and the “face diaper”.

    P.S. Gary is upset because I have forwarded him numerous proof sources that destroy the covid narrative on everything from masks, to lockdowns and most importantly, the failure and dangers of the experimental gene therapies. Gary, like so many others, who fell for the fraud and embraced the scam are now unwilling to admit they were conned. In other words, he’s directing his anger and shame on me. Wake up!

  16. Gary, you have a lot of patience with that asshole James N.
    Do not waste time trying to explain obvious things, that type of person is very limited.

  17. Jeez, James, let it go. I think the point that most of your critics in the comment section are trying to make is that if someone chooses to wear a mask, we should respect that. One thing that WILL come out of this, as I’ve seen with family in Asia prior to COVID, is that some people decide to wear masks in public spaces. It’s socially acceptable to do so. And they should be able to do so without others insulting them. None of us have any idea why he’s wearing a mask. I was in a meeting yesterday where one person was masked up the whole time — he was the only person in the room with a mask. At the end of the meeting, he volunteered he was spending the following week with a grandson fighting leukemia. He just wanted to take the precaution of wearing a mask to reduce the risk of passing ANY illness on to his grandson. We’ll see more of this in the US and guess what? It’s not a bad thing. Get over it and let them be.

  18. Wow, James, you are a piece of work….all the rational perspectives laid out for you and the fact that this guy chooses to wear a mask simply indicates he’s got his own reasons, quite possibly a very good one and he certainly isn’t harming anyone by his choice……..yet you think name calling and “internet research” proves your point. As they say, follow the money, all the anti vax , anti mask “internet science” is being led by people making money off of getting followers like you. You’ve been duped dude.

  19. “Gary, you have a lot of patience with that asshole James N.”

    Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark.

  20. Gary: You need to take a stronger approach about editing comments to your posts. No, NOT censorship, just eliminating the idiots who take your stories off topic or just like to sling crap for the fun of it. I find it harder and harder to read this blog and, quite fankly, I may just stop because it is clogged (like a toilet) with garbage. It is YOUR blog, Get on the stick and police it better. Or else your advertisers ain’t gonna be getting the eyeballs they expect.

  21. That’s pretty boss. imacs aren’t that heavy and typing on a real keyboard sure beats the puny one on my biz laptop I use for travel.

    As an aside, I think the proportion of Americans who have been up in arms about the government’s requirements or recommendations these past few years who then go on to judge/shame/harass/comment about the personal decisions of others (ie masks, vaccines, social distancing, etc) are…amusing. If everyone steps back and stops taking James N’s (and those like him) comments seriously, they just become an imperceptible speed bump in the comments’ section, something to laugh about to yourself because he’s so “silly.” Don’t let people like him bother you, it’s not worth your precious energy to invest any serious attention. I chuckle and keep on having a good day.

  22. He is good to go! The outlet will supply 75 watts and the iMac only draws 45 watts, he can do minor stuff but anything intensive might blow the circuit breaker.

  23. Too funny James, you made my point beautifully! You’ve been scammed by a car mechanic from Virginia who is adept at creative name calling….…..did you go to his donate link to give him money directly or do you just read his website for free and click on his advertising to support him?

  24. As I get older, I have discovered that arguing with idiots is a waste of my remaining time. One or two volleys and I’m done, unless it’s particularly interesting. If they think having the last word makes them “win”, well, only in their own mind. I’ve got better things to do.

  25. Good point C_M …this was such low hanging fruit I couldn’t resist…a link to a website of an angry car mechanic from VA with multiple ways to donate to him..too funny. That said there is a saying that supports you well…..
    Never argue with an idiot, they’ll just drag you down to their level and then win by experience1

  26. I was glad to see the mask, at least i know this is a current picture

    Work travel in ’96 a coworker and I say several rows apart. We stretched a crossover cable between us, across the aisle, and played Starcraft the whole flight… Luckily our laptop batteries had about 4 his in them. No one complained when we explained what we were doing and the FAs didn’t question a thing.

  27. Since you can now buy a decent laptop cheaply, why would you want to travel with a full-size computer? Well, there is the attention-getting factor I suppose.

    I agree with Ricard Chalmers … commenters who post to satisfy their own weird needs should have their comments transferred to a special section for the useless. They’d still have the joy of seeing their own stupidities ‘published’ but the rest of us wouldn’t need to wade through their useless junk. When the comments section is filled with garbage, it detracts from the point of this blog.

  28. @JohnW…congratulations, you win the prize. The individual who most perfectly demonstrates his inability to formulate a valid argument and resorts to a weak-minded ad hominem. Instead of demonizing and assailing his character, how about you demonstrate the flaws in his position? Let me save you the trouble, you’re incapable.

    That challenge is open to anyone else who cares to try. Of course, most will take the position of C_M and wave the white flag before even attempting to engage.

  29. There’s a difference between waiving a white flag and not wasting your ammo. Like a Japanese soldier holed up on a remote island, you might think you’re winning the war when the world has decided you’re not even worth a single bullet.

  30. Thirty years ago you were just entering college? You’re older than dirt, consider retiring(at least from being a CC shill/blogger).

  31. @C_M…Thanks for validating my point. Your analogy doesn’t work as your “ammo” is infinite. There’s no limit on the number of words one can employ. You simply don’t possess the necessary “ammo” to refute the position of the article at hand.

  32. My ammo is infinite, my time is not. There is opportunity cost to writing the ammo in a particularly useful order – time that could be spent getting a root canal, watching old political conventions, or making vanilla bean ice cream with raspberry and lemon curd. You rank below all those thing, therefore, you aren’t worth any ammo.

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