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Which kind of appliances can one connect to electric sockets located in an airplane's toilet?

I have read/heard conflicting information:

http://asiaspirit.com/lavatory.html (mirror):

The electric socket in the toilet is for shaver only, do no try to power up your notebook computer.

-> Why shaver only? What happens if one tries to power up one's notebook computer?

Quote from a United Airlines flight attendant:

Don't use electric sockets located in a plane's toilet otherwise it'll create a short circuit.


Adding some information based on the existing answers and comments:

  • Beside from charging laptop/phone batteries, the socket could be used for more typical bathroom purposes e.g. water floss, hair dryer, etc.
  • I am not looking for moral lessons. Yes thank you, I am aware that typically more than one individual uses an airplane's toilet during a flight...
  • " A flight is not a good place for experimentation for many reasons" -> this is why I'm asking the question here, and not trying directly.
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    Well, it certainly won't create a short-circuit. Probably, they mean that it will trip a fuse or breaker. – David Richerby Mar 30 at 11:14
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A shaver socket is designed to deliver a very limited current - typically 200mA, or 20 to 40 watts, depending on voltage. What happens if you plug something else in depends on the 'something else', and the circuit supporting the socket.

For low power devices they'll probably work just fine. However, even phone chargers can draw more than 200mA, and laptop or notebook computers much more.

Plugging in a high-power device will probably trip a fuse or circuit breaker somewhere. In the case of an airline toilet it'll probably light a warning light in the cockpit or flight attendant's station, either of which could prompt an invasion of your privacy

And in any case, if you do manage to plug your notebook in and browse Facebook for thirty minutes in an airline toilet, do you really want to face the wrath of the assembled queue waiting for increasingly urgent use of the facility?


I gathered some of the source material here

  • Thanks! If the electric socket located in a plane's toilet doesn't say "shaver only", in practice is it ok to assume it's a normal socket? – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 30 at 0:43
  • I don't know, but possibly. See the last paragraph of my answer for other hazards you might face. – user90371 Mar 30 at 0:45
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    @FranckDernoncourt I don't know what it is you want to do but please don't. Airline bathrooms are shared between a lot of people and using one for any more time than it takes to go to the toilet is being seriously inconsiderate to your fellow passengers. – David Richerby Mar 30 at 11:13
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    @FranckDernoncourt I would not assume that it's a normal socket since "normal" in the world of plane electrical systems and home electrical systems is very different. Heck, even home electrical systems don't agree around the world. A small number of other devices might work. I would guess that most devices expecting more power would simply not work. Probably neither the device nor the plane would be damaged but there is certainly no guarantee of that. A flight is not a good place for experimentation for many reasons. Just do without your gadget until you land. – badjohn Mar 30 at 15:08
  • @badjohn in any case a hair dryer is probably a bad idea. – phoog Mar 30 at 15:33
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I was assigned to work as a cabin crew on very long ferry flights before (12+ hrs flights with no passengers) at the times when passenger seats didn't have electric sockets, it was boring flights and laptops were the gadgets of the choice at the time, usually the old Boeing 747, and I have tried using the sockets inside the lavatories and I remember very well that it didn't work. The charging light would go on then off, and keeps doing so while not charging.

I also remember trying checking out the sockets next to doors (on the side of the doors in older planes too), which are used for special vacuum cleaners, but it had some big figures written on it (for watts or something, can't remember), it made me worried so I decided not to.

If it says for shavers only, it means it's for shavers only. If it's in the toilet, then for sure it's not meant for laptops even if it did't say "shavers only".

I asked the pilots once, they advised me not to, and let me use the socket inside the cockpit, which was a regular one.

My advice, follow whatever instructions are written there, especially in older airplanes. Do not cause some confusion among the crew by giving them a popped out circuit breaker, it's not fun. I personally hate popped out circuit breakers and makes me think something is really wrong, whether it's in a cabin galley or when I visit the cockpit and see one.

  • Thanks! "If it's in the toilet, then for sure it's not meant for laptops even if it didn't say "shavers only". -> sure but it could be meant to be used for other more typical bathroom purpose e.g. water floss, hair dryer, etc. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 30 at 1:17
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    Those outlets were 400 Hz outlets; those are powered directly through the airplane's power transformer (the plane's avionics systems use 400 Hz). Typical household current is 50 or 60 Hz, depending on country. (I've seen some American Airlines flight attendants use those 400 Hz sockets to charge their own phones; they apparently don't have an issue with them, but I wouldn't recommend it.) – gparyani Mar 30 at 6:08
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    @FranckDernoncourt Hair dryers are high-powered devices that draw a high current. They won't work on a shaver socket. – David Richerby Mar 30 at 11:12
  • Why is there cabin crew on a flight with no passengers? – phoog Mar 30 at 15:36
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    @BenVoigt I know what a ferry flight is. I'm asking why such a flight would have cabin crew (especially given recent news that a ferry flight made an emergency landing, where the only two aboard were the pilots). Nean Der Thal, thanks for answering. – phoog Mar 30 at 15:55
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Water and electricity are a dangerous combination.

For this reason, there are lots of regulations limiting what kind of powered devices and powered outlets can be used close to water (the details vary from country to country). In fact, in some countries (like the UK), the plugs used for those are different from regular plugs (in the UK they look like a Europlug but they are actually slightly different and incompatible).

For this reason, power outlets in lavatories are usually restricted to low currents, with very sensitive breakers so that in case of electrocution power is cut very quickly.

You’ll definitely won’t be able to power a laptop with those.

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