Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Solution: My MacBook Laptop Charger Won't Charge on on a Plane

I recently flew in a business class seat from  San Francisco to London and back, on United Airlines.  On the way over, I could not get my MacBook charger to charge my laptop.  United's new lie-flat business class seats have standard US 110V power outlets under the seats. 

I thought that perhaps my 85W MacBook power adapter was drawing too much current.  However, after browsing some online forums like flyertalk, I decided to use an adapter.  Voila! with the proper adapter, my MacBook charger started working 

I bought an international travel adapter at Heathrow airport.  It has a "Euro" style plug that has round pins, but fits deeply into the power outlet beneath the seat.  I could tell that this adapter was getting power, because a light for the USB ports turns on when the adaptor has power.  This was very helpful.  I then  plugged my MacBook power brick into the international travel adapter. 

The item on the bottom right is the international travel adapter that solved the problem.  The "Euro" pins stick out a bit further than the flat blades of the MacBook charger, as you can see in this photo.  These pins make a connection to the airline power sockets in the seats.  I plugged in the MacBook charger on the opposite end of the adapter. 

Other suggestions from forums:

Bring an international travel adapter with you (e.g. use the 3 pin UK plug on the power brick, and attach it to an adapter for the US 2-pin style -- if your adapter is a standard size, it's likely to fit into the recessed socket).

I've had that poor charging issue since the lie flats were introduced; my solution is to use a cheap 3 prong to 2 prong adapter - it seems to ensure a good connection that the apple power bricks cannot achieve. Or, bring along the long AC cable that comes with the MacBook power adapters.

The below suggestions could still be an issue, but I can confirm that once I got my MacBook charger to work, it definitely charged my MacBook Pro laptop.  I had no cycling or shut-off problems. 

I have had one instance (on a 777) where the plug didnt work. It kept cycling on and off like every second.

I carry an Apple 45W MacBook Air charger specifically for aircraft.

The common MacBook Pro 85W charger seems to overwhelm in-seat power systems; I've seen it super flaky on older UA, CO, and AA aircraft.

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