Top 5 places to plug in your iPhone or laptop in an airport

By John Walton, March 1 2011
Top 5 places to plug in your iPhone or laptop in an airport

Business travellers appreciate access to airline lounges for power to charge their laptop, iPhone, BlackBerry and other gadgets as much as they do the free food and drink -- even if the design of the charging stations sometimes leaves much to be desired.

However, if you're not flying in business class, and you don't have enough frequent flyer status with the airline to get into their lounge, you might be stuck without a desk or business centre where you can plug in.

If you're not carrying a laptop with all-day battery life, or you don't have a battery pack for your iPhone, you'll need to find power somewhere.

Airports tend to hide their power plugs as much as possible -- many were built before the proliferation of electronic devices, and airports aren't really in the business of providing free power to travellers in any case.

We've put together a handy guide to the top five airport locations where you're most likely to find those elusive power points.

1) near kiosks and shops, or in cafés and restaurants

Kiosks are the best bet to find a socket -- they're mobile and will need power for their cash register and credit card machines if nothing else. You're especially in luck if a kiosk is closed, leaving its power points unused.

Restaurants and cafés are a time-honoured place to snag some power -- but make sure the place is happy to have you plugged in and charging. It goes without saying that you'll need to buy something.

Savvy travellers will also leave a generous -- and visible -- tip tucked obviously under their coffee cup in full view of their server, so they're left alone with their laptop and not ushered swiftly onwards once they've finished eating and drinking.

2) on pillars or other structural features

Airports have large open spaces, but they need to plug cleaning machinery in somewhere. So pillars are a particularly frequent hiding place for sockets, although airports usually try to hide them on the opposite side to where most travellers will be looking.

This trick works best with older airports -- particularly in the US -- since more modern airports have generally opted for loftier ceilings, minimising the number of pillars around.

3) behind an oddly placed set of seats

Is there a set of seats that's by the wall, off at an angle to others? Are there seats in an otherwise empty corridor? Chances are that the airport is trying to hide the sockets that are behind or underneath the seats. 

This is an especially useful spot, because you'll be able to sit down and relax rather than standing around while your gadgets recharge.

4) under a television or behind special advertising

Nobody wants to listen to CNN Airport, but if you can stand it (or if you have noise cancelling headphones) there's often a spare plug near the TV. Bear in mind that they're often halfway -- or all of the way -- up a wall, so bring that longer power cable with you.

Is there a little stand advertising the very latest perfume, car, television or mobile gadget nearby? It probably needs power, but it might not need all of the sockets next to it.

5) next to a gate...but not your gate

There's almost certainly going to be at least one power socket near every gate. Steer away from a gate that's being used, and find one without a departing flight. Airline or airport staff are much less likely to want you to move elsewhere if they don't have a reason to be using the gate.

Increasingly, some gates also have proper charging stations, often covered in advertising for a mobile phone maker or network, but usually with enough sockets to charge more than one device at a time.

For all these places, remember to bring the longest cable for your laptop or mobile phone charger with you. That shorter one that connects straight from the power "brick" into the wall might not stretch far enough for you to be able to use the device while it's charging.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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