Entertaining on-board is now your own business

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USB charging and back seat monitor in Airbus A330 seat on Hawaiian Airlines in 2013
USB charging and back seat monitor in Airbus A330 seat on Hawaiian Airlines in 2013. (Photo by LunchboxLarry/flickr.com)

Have you noticed that backseat monitors on passenger aircraft are already disappearing? The trend has already happened in 2017 when the US carriers United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines began phasing out the monitors on newly delivered aircraft. Even refurbished passenger cabins also see the monitors off.

Short to medium-range domestic and even international flights both on low-cost and full-service airlines see the monitors off. The entertainment on board has become the passenger’s responsibility.

Bring your own device

Bring your own device or BYOD is how we’ve learned to do it. Even out of necessity.

Smartphones, tablets, portable and super lightweight notebooks and laptops, e-readers, and other gadgets with WiFi and Bluetooth enabled can connect to onboard Wi-Fi for streaming service. Here is the catch. The services will come at a fee. After all, having Internet access in the sky is a serious equipment and subscription investment for every airline. So no freebie on that front.

Not to mention that many airlines require you to download their proprietary mobile app in order to access in-flight Wi-Fi or entertainment.

The alternative is to have your favorite content downloaded on your device before boarding. Get your favorite movies, and TV shows loaded and entertain yourself at your own pace free of charge.

But to run mobile personal devices requires power. If you charge them before short to medium-range domestic flights they might last just Ok for a couple of hours. Any longer than that and most certainly you will run out of juice. What to do then?

Get power

Keeping portable devices full of power seems to be not a big deal. We all know of the charging stations that pop up in every airport. And even airlines offer USB charging at your seat on board the aircraft.

It all looks so easy. But make no mistake. The USB charging at seats and at airports hide real cyber security risks. It is hard to believe, isn’t it?

But the threat is real, warn experts, and should not be taken lightly or ignored. With not much effort hackers can configure those public USB chargers to deliver dangerous malware to your mobile device.

Or they can install bugs that download data to your smartphone without any warning. Whatever the way, plugging into a charging station can expose your data to risks, and more so if you are plugging in a work device. Then the malware can spread to your entire company network once you plug that device into it.

Mitigate the risks

While traveling you can take matters into your own hands with just these several tips:

Make sure the software running on all of the devices is always up-to-date. Software updates contain patches to known security threats and they create a layer of protection. And this is not true only for desktop computers and laptops. Smartphones are also vulnerable to hackers if their software is not kept current.

We have all heard it by now that public Wi-Fi networks should be used only for simple browsing. Exchanging sensitive data such as passwords, financial reports, file transfers, or any Personal Identifiable Information (PPI) should be avoided. However, using a VPN or your phone as a Hotspot will protect your data even over a public network.

Obviously, using a power charger that plugs directly into a wall outlet solves all of our worries. Not only that. A wall plug will charge your device much faster.

But we’ve all been in a situation when at peak times or crowded airports all plugs are just not available. Then the backup plan is to carry a portable power pack (recharging battery). Depending on their capacity such devices will allow you to recharge portable devices multiple times. And the problem is solved

I have often found that traveling internationally or during short layovers these battery devices can be lifesavers. No matter if I am changing planes or boarding through security once plugged in they will charge my device. And by the time you have to board your gadgets are ready to go.

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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