What is an Airplane Adapter?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An airplane adapter is a device which allows people to connect electronic devices to power ports provided in aircraft for the purpose of powering those devices so that they can be used, charged, or both. With an airplane adapter, people do not need to worry about expending battery power, which can be a concern on long flights. In addition to working on planes, these devices are also often usable on cars, trains, and boats, when outlets are provided for travelers on these modes of transportation.

Many airlines provide power outlets for the convenience of their passengers.
Many airlines provide power outlets for the convenience of their passengers.

Not all planes provide power outlets for passengers, and those who do may not necessarily provide a receptacle at every seat. People who are concerned about being able to power devices on a plane may want to ask when purchasing tickets about whether or not the aircraft has power outlets and about the possibility of reserving a seat near a receptacle. Some websites designed for travelers also provide people with information about which aircraft are most likely to have outlets.

The airplane adapter plugs into the outlet, runs through a power brick, and then plugs into the device itself. Some are designed for specific devices like laptops, which others can plug into cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and a variety of other electronic devices. When using an airplane adapter, it is important to confirm that it is safe to use with a given device. People who are not sure should contact the manufacturer for confirmation.

Because the outlets on a plane may vary, it is not uncommon to see an airplane adapter fitted with changeable heads. This allows the user to select the head which will fit the outlet, which may vary from a traditional plug to a specialized outlet. People must also comply with the rules of the carrier when it comes to operating electronic devices; there may be times during the flight when passengers are asked not to use such devices, for example.

When using an airplane adapter, it is important to be cautious about the cord. Someone could trip and fall on the cord and this could also cause damage to the attached device if it was pulled off a lap or tray table. In addition, cords should be kept tucked up so that they do not become a nuisance in the event of an emergency evacuation. Cabin crew may ask a passenger to move or adjust a cord in order to address a safety issue.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


These airplane adapters sound great, but I really wish all planes would use the same outlets and make the whole process much simpler. You never know what you are going to run into from one plane to the next.


@Drentel - I know what you mean about some people abusing the rules and using their phones and computers when they aren't supposed to be operating them on the plane. However, you shouldn't let your opinion be shaped by a few people who aren't following the rules. When I get on a plane all of the people I see are usually following the rules.

I think the airplane adapters are great because now people don't have to wear down their battery loads and then fight for wall outlets in the airport once they get on the ground.


I get so tired of passengers on the airplanes with all of their electronic devices. Not so long ago, home telephones and public pay phones were our ways of communicating and staying in touch. I was on a flight a few months ago, and the flight attendants asked everyone to turn off their devices for takeoff.

The guy sitting next to me was using an airplane adapter for his device and he was wearing headphones, so I tapped him on the arm and told him what the flight attendant had said. He nodded his head and kept doing what he was doing. Then a flight attendant came over and told him to power off until the captain said everyone could go back to using their devices.

He nodded his head again, and when she walked away, he continued using the device. What was so important that he couldn't follow the rules and turn the machine off? After all, he wasn't the only person on the plane, and if his device had interfered with the plane's equipment then everyone on the plane would have been at risk. He never did turn the thing off.

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