Guide to Using Personal Technology During Air Travel

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Today’s travelers carry a variety of personal technology when they travel by airplane. They might have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, a smartwatch, and more. Some people have technology embedded in their bodies, like those who use a pacemaker. When traveling via plane, it’s important to understand the best ways to use your personal technology. There are some general guidelines for when and where to use certain items, but there are also legal and technical guidelines for personal technology usage.

From security check to sky, here’s a guide to using personal technology during air travel.

Packing and Going Through Security

If you are going on a short trip, then you should plan to bring only the essential pieces of technology. Remember to pack all your sensitive devices in your carry-on luggage so that nothing gets lost or damaged. If you will be working on your trip, pack your laptop and charger in an easy to access sleeve. This makes it easier to remove when you pass through security. Keep your mobile phone in your jacket pocket or in an accessible zippered pocket in your backpack. You will need it to scan your ticket and to use throughout the airport before you board the plane.

When it’s time to go through the security checkpoint, you will need to remove all electronic devices from your carry-on bag. Some airports have different policies due to higher-tech scanning technology, but you should plan to remove your devices. To protect them from the dirty airport environment, procure a neoprene sleeve to contain your laptop and charger. Don’t place them directly in the tray. If you are bringing any hobby electronics onboard, like a custom PCB or other type of printed circuit board design, it’s best to remove these and display them in a clear bag for the employees to assess.

Remember not to overpack your carry-on! It should be easy to remove and replace your devices. Otherwise, you’ll clog up the security line trying to jam your laptop back into your backpack.

If you need to go through passport control because you are headed to an international destination, remember that mobile phones and photography are not allowed in these areas. You can’t even listen to music here. Tuck your phone away and people-watch instead.

Technology at the Gate

Now that you’ve arrived at your gate, you might want to charge up your devices for the long journey ahead. It’s a good idea to add some more juice to your mobile phone battery while waiting at the gate. Most people drain their battery in the airport more than they realize, which can leave them stranded upon arrival.

Most airports have scattered outlets and USB charging ports in the passenger waiting areas. Depending on the time of day, these might be in high demand and you might struggle to find an outlet. Here’s an insider tip: head for the bathrooms. In some airports, there are outlets in the bathroom.

Keep in mind that you need to be paying attention to the gate announcements. The passenger waiting areas are already pretty noisy, so it’s not a great area for working or holding meetings. Try to keep your personal technology contained in the gate area. You’ll be grateful when it’s time to quickly pack up to get on board or hit the bathroom before you depart.

On Board the Aircraft

The most important part of personal technology use in-flight is to put your cellular devices into airplane mode. Your devices could emit electromagnetic interference which makes it difficult for the plane’s navigation and communication technology to function optimally. It’s important that you respect this guideline in order to enjoy a safe flight.

Some other etiquette guidelines are useful to practice in tight quarters on an airplane. You may be on an aircraft that offers charging ports in every seat. Most of these ports offer two slots, one for each passenger. Do the courteous thing and only use one of the ports. If you need to use both, check with your seatmate before monopolizing the electricity. 

Try to keep your wires contained and your laptop stable. It’s very stressful for flight attendants and your fellow passengers to see a laptop bumping along in turbulence with glasses of ginger ale nearby. It’s even more challenging when someone has to carefully squeeze past your tangled wires to get to the aisle and use the bathroom. Make it easy on everyone by keeping your stuff contained.

The last part of in-flight technology guidelines is related to Internet usage. Most airplane WiFi does not allow for video or audio calls, only instant messaging. Try to be mindful of the type of content you access while on a plane, staying aware that your seatmates may not want to look at the same things. Make sure you remember to save your tabs or save your cloud documents before the in-flight WiFi shuts off. For instance, let’s say you were creating an order for a quick turn PCB at a printed circuit board assembly company using their online ordering software. If you don’t save your progress, you’ll lose all your hard work as soon as the airplane dips below 10,000 feet.

On Arrival

When you touch down, you may switch your phone from airplane mode into cellular mode. As you depart the plane, try not to keep your nose buried in your phone. Step aside to allow urgent travelers to pass you by, or sit at an empty gate area to figure out where you need to go.

If you’re arriving at an overseas airport, check to see if they offer a local WiFi network. You may not need to use your international minutes until you leave the grounds of the airport. One more note: make sure you check the electrical current and charging requirements of the country you’re in. Do this before you leave, as you may need an adapter to charge your devices and you don’t want to get stuck overseas without a functioning smartphone. 

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