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Old Aug 16, 07, 6:12 pm   #1
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Consolidated "EmPower (Laptop Power) on United Airlines" Thread [Merged]

I thought I'd set this thread up as something we could list in the UA FAQs, especially since I'm an Empower whore and am constantly seeking answers. If you have anything to add to this thread, PM me and I'll make the update.

Necessary Equipment

EmPower is a 15V DC (up to 75 Watts) system that can power (and possibly charge) your laptop and other electronic devices. The outlet looks like this, so it requires a special power supply that works with DC as well as a plug that works in the EmPower outlet. Note that with the thin connector pins, all of these plugs are somewhat fragile...so be gentle when plugging & unplugging them. A few years ago I broke a pin at the beginning of a SFO-HKG flight...didn't make for a very enjoyable trip.

My preference is the Igo Juice product since one "brick" can be used for both AC and DC uses. Plus it has a nice blue light on it...makes a perfect hotel room nightlight.

There are tons of adaptors available, but the important thing is that it has a connector that will work with the EmPower outlet. Almost all products indicate on the packaging if they're compatible with EmPower as well as your PC model.

Note that there are adaptors for the EmPower plug to a cigarette lighter-style plug. Some airlines, including AA, use a cigarette lighter outlet instead of the traditional EmPower one. These adaptors allow you to use the same DC power supply despite there being different plug configurations.

Also, keep in mind that with these "generic" power supplies, there are some PC manufacturers out there (especially Dell) who design their products so only Dell-labeled power supplies will work. Definitely something to consider before dropping $100+ on a DC supply.

Availability

EmPower is available in United First Suite on 744s and 777s, United First on domestic 777s, United First on 767s (both domestic and int'l configs), United First on domestic* 757s, United First, Business, and Economy on p.s. 757s, United First on A320s*, and United Business on int'l 744s, 777s, and 767s.

A note about 757 p.s. and new Business and First Class Equipment - the laptop power system on these aircraft accept traditional AC power supplies & wall plugs. Essentially, you only need to bring the power supply that came with your PC and no "special" adaptors are needed, at least if you're using the standard North American plug configuration. I can't speak to adaptability for European, Asian, and other plug configurations, but if you use a North American adaptor it should work just fine.

Circuit Breaker Locations

The EmPower system has a main on/off circuit breaker. You can tell if the system is on because each outlet has a green indicator light. It's been my experience that most FAs are not very savvy in knowing where the master EmPower switch is, so it's worth your while to check here so you can perhaps guide the FA should that be necessary.

In general, I find that the plane's first flight of the day will usually have the system off when I board; my guess is that maintenance turns it off when the plane sits overnight.

B744s - I believe this control is located in the actual cockpit, although I cannot confirm. About 4 years ago I was flying NRT-SFO, and the UD FA called the captain and the green light came on.

B777s (International) - Not sure.

B777s (Domestic) - Not sure.

B763s (International) - Located in the entertainment cabinet in the F galley area, at the front of the right (starboard) aisle. At the bottom of the cabinet, below all of the movie tape decks, on the right side of the cabinet, there is a little box that says "Power Module" with a switch on it.

B763s (Domestic) - Not sure.

B757s (p.s.) - Not sure.

B757s (2-class) - Not sure.

A320s - In the entertainment cabinet that's in front of 1AB, the door opens upward horizontally, and at the bottom of the cabinet there's a switch. Note that this cabinet/bin is essentially above eye level, so it may require standing on tippy toes to see the switch.

*The Annoying EmPower Situation w/ non-p.s. 757s and A320s

While we're grateful that some 757s and 320s have EmPower, there's a good amount of them flying around that have a nasty little plastic cover over where the EmPower outlet should be. It's a total crapshoot as to whether your 757 or 320 will have EmPower, and it's quite annoying, frankly. Even though there's no way to find out the specific equipment that will be operating your flight beforehand, I have kept a log of 757s and 320s that have and don't have EmPower.

There's a suggestion that the Overwater 757s (those that go to HI) do not have the system, although earlier this week I was on an OW 757 and the EmPower was there. That said, the few '57s I've taken to HI have NOT had EmPower, but the reason I've only taken a *few* is because I prefer the 767s and 777s that reliably have power.

757s & 320s WITH Empower

757s:

N503UA
N504UA
N506UA
N507UA
N511UA
N513UA
N514UA
N515UA
N516UA
N519UA
N520UA
N528UA
N530UA
N531UA
N534UA
N537UA
N542UA
N543UA
N549UA
N550UA
N558UA
N577UA
N579UA
N583UA
N587UA
N588UA

A320s:

N419UA
N421UA
N422UA
N423UA
N424UA
N426UA
N427UA
N429UA
N431UA
N433UA
N443UA
N462UA
N464UA
N466UA

757s & 320s WITHOUT Empower

757s:

N501UA
N521UA
N523UA
N524UA
N527UA
N529UA
N540UA
N541UA
N546UA
N551UA
N559UA
N561UA
N562UA
N564UA
N566UA
N567UA
N569UA
N572UA
N575UA
N576UA
N578UA
N583UA
N585UA
N589UA
N593UA
N596UA
N598UA

A320s:

N401UA
N403UA
N404UA
N409UA
N413UA
N439UA
N477UA

NOTE: You can also rest assured that if your A320 has a row 27 (likely a reconfigured ex-Ted with 6 extra seats than the first generation A320s, there won't be any Empower since UA made one of the most ridiculous business decisions to retrofit without installing laptop power).

Last edited by UNITED959; Jun 8, 10 at 8:01 am.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 6:52 pm   #2
 
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You should note that Apple MacBook Pro users need to buy the Apple-branded EmPower plug... this is because the MacBook Pro is (somewhat of) a power hog and will blow out an EmPower port using a generic adapter. The Apple-branded adapter triggers the MBP to stop charging the battery (power is used for operation only), allowing the computer to operate without tripping the breaker.

(I suspect Apple could probably have enabled this in software so that users could still use a generic EmPower adapter... but then again, maybe not. At the moment, the Apple-branded adapter is the only option. But let's not start any comments about Apple or the Mac, please... this post is simply for informational purposes relevant to the thread.)
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Old Aug 16, 07, 7:36 pm   #3
 
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So if a laptop P/S draw more than 75W, it'll trip the breaker? Sorry it's been a while since second quarter freshman physics E & M.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 7:36 pm   #4
 
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to UNITED959 for a great thread.

Curiously I was on a recent B757 in F, and the empower was not active. I overheard a px inquire about it to one of the FA's and her reply was, "some of the planes had the EmPower disabled after 9/11".

Methinks she just didn't know how to turn it on as was mentioned in the OP.

Craig
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Old Aug 16, 07, 7:41 pm   #5
 
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Mine is

http://us.kensington.com/html/6368.html

works well for me.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 7:44 pm   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drummingcraig View Post
to UNITED959 for a great thread.

Curiously I was on a recent B757 in F, and the empower was not active. I overheard a px inquire about it to one of the FA's and her reply was, "some of the planes had the EmPower disabled after 9/11".

Methinks she just didn't know how to turn it on as was mentioned in the OP.

Craig
Were the outlets in view, or was there a plastic cover? If it had outlets, but no green light, then she probably didn't know how to turn it on. 9/11 is a great excuse to get FAs out of a lot of things.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 7:54 pm   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cepheid View Post
this is because the MacBook Pro is (somewhat of) a power hog and will blow out an EmPower port using a generic adapter. The Apple-branded adapter triggers the MBP to stop charging the battery (power is used for operation only), allowing the computer to operate without tripping the breaker.
Not sure if this is true with EmPower ports too, but with the AC outlets on p.s. flights if you have a battery that is close to fully charged the breaker doesn't trip when you use the laptop. It also doesn't trip if the computer is off/standby but the battery is being charged.

When I need to use the laptop with low battery (but can't wait till the battery charges up enough to draw less current) I just take the battery out.

Last edited by paulwlee; Aug 16, 07 at 8:00 pm.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:01 pm   #8
 
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United 959 great idea for a thread

Do ALL 767s have empower? I thought I had been on 767 in the domestic configuration that had the plate over the empower outlet. Also my experience is that less than 20% of the A320s have empower enabled(i.e. no plate over adapter). Is this your experience as well?
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:06 pm   #9
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Do ALL 767s have empower?
AFAIK, yes.

Quote:
Also my experience is that less than 20% of the A320s have empower enabled(i.e. no plate over adapter). Is this your experience as well?
Well, if you look at my list of planes with it...it's clearly over 20%...although I just started logging probably 3-4 months ago. I must be on a good luck streak.

I'd say with the 320s, it's pretty close to 50/50; my experience with 757s is definitely higher, probably around 65%-70%...which is why, when I can choose between a 757 or a 320 flight, I select the 757.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:08 pm   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulwlee View Post
Not sure if this is true with EmPower ports too, but with the AC outlets on p.s. flights if you have a battery that is close to fully charged the breaker doesn't trip when you use the laptop. It also doesn't trip if the computer is off/standby but the battery is being charged.

When I need to use the laptop with low battery (but can't wait till the battery charges up enough to draw less current) I just take the battery out.
I used to follow the same procedures for my old laptop which had a Pentium 4 processor. My last two laptops have been Centrinos and I've had no problems with them as they require less power.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:16 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by UNITED959 View Post
when I can choose between a 757 or a 320 flight, I select the 757.
Me too. For single aisle aircraft I prefer 757, A320, A319, E170s, 737s, RJs. in that order
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:16 pm   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulwlee View Post
if you have a battery that is close to fully charged the breaker doesn't trip when you use the laptop. It also doesn't trip if the computer is off/standby but the battery is being charged.
Right, in the first case the computer isn't charging the battery (Macs don't charge until the battery charge is below 95%, to prevent lots of short charge/discharge cycles), and in the second case, the only power needed is for charging. In both cases the power draw is reduced, so EmPower should work fine in those cases. (The p.s. power ports are also limited to 75W, just like EmPower.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulwlee View Post
When I need to use the laptop with low battery (but can't wait till the battery charges up enough to draw less current) I just take the battery out.
Also an excellent idea... that would allow you to use a generic EmPower adapter (rather than being stuck with the Apple-branded one) no matter what the charge state of the battery. Of course, it requires an extra step and keeping track of the battery... woe to the passenger who forgets their only battery in the seatback pocket!
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:54 pm   #13
 
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United959, great post!

Perhaps, including a link to instructions about how to seek compensation when seated on the 757's and A320's that have the EmPower permanently disabled?
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Old Aug 16, 07, 8:58 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by UNITED959 View Post
Were the outlets in view, or was there a plastic cover? If it had outlets, but no green light, then she probably didn't know how to turn it on. 9/11 is a great excuse to get FAs out of a lot of things.
Outlets were present...green light was off.
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Old Aug 16, 07, 9:00 pm   #15
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Outlets were present...green light was off.
Then I'd say there's a 99% chance the aircraft had working EmPower.
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