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"Need your batteries charged? Airports offer fliers more help"
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Need your batteries charged? Airports offer fliers more help
By Nancy Trejos
He's commandeered a check-in counter at an empty gate. He's unplugged a
water cooler and perched next to it. He's seized an electric outlet in the
middle of a boarding lane for another flight.
"I held my ground as passengers stepped over me to board," says the
Salisbury, Vt., Road Warrior and management consultant.
Such fervor is common among frequent business travelers, who twitch when
they can't tap on their tablets or smartphones because batteries are
drained. Walk through any terminal and you'll see people plugging electronic
devices into any outlet they can find, even if it's behind a bar or in a
Airports and some airlines understand the needs of today's digital travelers
and increasingly are making electrical outlets more available.
"Airports recognize there is a demand for power . and have attempted to fill
this need through innovative approaches, such as providing charging stations
at old payphone banks," says Morgan Dye, senior manager of communications
and marketing for Airports Council International-North America, which
represents airports in the U.S. and Canada.
Responding to a growing need
In a survey in 2010, the council found that 56 of 89 airports reported
having electric charging stations for passengers. And, the group says, the
number is growing, with airports in San Francisco, Nashville, Oakland and
other cities adding stations. Among them:
.Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport recently added 240 electrical
outlets and 204 USB ports throughout the airport. Those improvements include
36 new sets of padded chairs, each with a table in between with two outlets
and one USB port.
.Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has added more than 114 plug-in
charging units to seats over the last few months, each with two plug-ins.
Another 300 will appear before the end of the year.
.Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport has promised that its new $2.4
billion Terminal 3 expansion, which will be ready by June 27, will have
outlets scattered over the floor near seating areas. The airport plans to
add more seating-area power sources at its busy C concourse, too.
Many airlines - such as US Airways, Delta and Virgin America- also are
adding electrical outlets in some of their gate areas at some airports,
although they say they're only tenants, and that providing charging stations
is the responsibility of the airports.
Power struggles can get ugly
More electrical outlets can't come fast enough for many frequent business
travelers, some of whom say they've seen arguments and even fights break out
Avi Rosenthal says he saw two men come to blows because there was only one
power outlet to recharge their dying iPhones at Los Angeles International
Airport. It was late and the flight was delayed, enough to rile up the
Rosenthal, a technologist in Harrisburg, Pa., has tried to avoid such
extremes by carrying a fold-up six-outlet power strip in his carry-on. Not
only does he get to recharge his devices, but he also helps his fellow
"I take it everywhere," he says. "I then get to play the hero."
Debra Martin, a safety consultant in Kent City, Mich., once got into an
argument at an airport with another traveler who was using the only two
outlets available in their gate area.
"I'm not sure why we frequent fliers don't have more respect for one
another," she says. "We're all in the same predicament."
Since then, she says, she's started carrying a surge protector plug with
three plug-ins and two USB ports. At Charlotte Douglas International Airport
recently, she plugged it into an outlet under the drinking fountain right
outside the men's room.
"I sure got funny looks standing there, like I was stalking the men going in
and coming out," she says. "They couldn't see my phone plugged in."
Many airlines are installing electric outlets at airports for their
customers. Among them:
.US Airways will add work spaces to its gates at New York's LaGuardia
Airport early next year. They'll include charging stations with USB and
electrical plugs, and tablet devices available for customer use. Plans are
to build similar work spaces at other hubs.
.Delta Air Lines has installed power stations at 19 U.S. airports, including
Atlanta, New York's JFK and Memphis. There are two recharging stations at
each passenger gate area, each with six outlets and two USB ports.
.Virgin America designed its base of operations at San Francisco
International Airport with elevated laptop work tables that have outlets and
Wi-Fi. At Chicago O'Hare, the carrier added more outlets and wireless
induction chargers. Travelers can set their devices on or near the induction
charger and get an automatic recharge.
.Alaska Airlines will go from 30 to more than 200 outlets at its gates at
its Seattle hub airport by the end of the month. Plans are to increase the
number of outlets at other major cities this summer.
Tichacek, of Vermont, applauds any efforts to add more outlets. He hopes to
one day take a trip and not go to extreme measures to revive his phone at an
"Here I am, a very dignified and otherwise highly professional business
person, sitting on dirty airport floors and letting people step over me," he
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