by Paul Mah

Techie-Traveler Stereotypes: Gadgets Geeks on a Plane

Mar 21, 20124 mins
Computers and PeripheralsLaptopsSmartphones

While the FAA’s decision to revisit the existing ban on the use of electronic gadgets during airplane taxi, takeoff and landing will surely be a good thing for many travelers, there is a downside: Tech-obsessed people are only going to be further consumed by their electronics. Here's a quick look at five types of gadget geeks you're likely to meet on an airplane.

By now you may have heard about the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) intention to review current restrictions prohibiting the use of electronic gadgets on airplanes during taxi, takeoff and landing. Considering that the fear of these devices interfering with cockpit equipment is has never been based on objective research and testing, it’s certainly nice to see that the agency is open to a reevaluation of its policies. (You can find more details on the F.A.A.’s decision on’s Mobile WorkHorse blog.)


While it may be years before actual changes to the F.A.A. policies take place, I couldn’t help but imagine what in-flight gadget use might look like five or ten years in the future. And that led me to coming up with a list of the various types of gadget-toting folks you currently spy on airplanes. Here’s a list of the amusing, annoying and sometimes confouncing techie-traveler stereotypes you can expect to find the next time you hop on a plane.

The Workaholic

The Workaholic is easy to spot. He is the first person out of his seat the moment the seatbelt lights go off. Reaching into the overhead compartment, he rapidly unloads his laptop and associated peripherals. The sound of furious typing follows shortly after and continues all the way through mealtimes. He is typically fully equipped to deploy an additional monitor should the seat next to him be unoccupied.

The Workaholic’s preflight gadget checklist might look something like this:

The Movie Aficionado

While most of us are fine watching a movie or two on the in-flight entertainment system, The Movie Aficionado is full of scorn for the puny 5 to 7-inch screens that make up most in-flight systems. Instead, The Aficionado relies on her trusty 17-inch laptop and arsenal of Blu-ray discs for an immersive (literally, since the laptop is just inches from her face) experience. She can also be spotted on occasion trying to setup a mini projector using the bulkhead or ceiling as an ad-hoc screen–when the flight attendant isn’t looking, of course.

The Aficionado’s preflight gadget checklist could look like this:

  • 17-inch laptop
  • Kensington Wall/Air Ultra Compact notebook power adapter
  • Pico projector

The Reader

Nothing satisfies the reader more than being able to plow through her favorite books and magazines. These days, getting a fix is as simple as loading up an e-readers while en route to the airport. The Reader is typically a quiet breed and is generally harmless, though you can expect to see the occasional sudden guffaw at an unseen joke.

The Reader’s preflight gadget checklist probably includes something like:

The Gamer

The Gamer enjoys conducting multiplayer campaigns of Worms 2: Armageddon across the aisle with his traveling companions via Bluetooth. He is easily identified by oversized, high-end headphones and portable gaming devices that he clutches in front of him with a death grip. If you’re seated next The Gamer, the good news is that he’s usually not violent in real life. And you can usually grab his share of the dessert while he’s engrossed in battle.

The Gamer’s preflight gadget checklist likely looks like this:

  • iPad/PlayStation Portable/Nintendo DS
  • Fanny Wang 2000 headphone
  • ZAGGsparq 2.0 portable battery
  • Spare batteries for headphone

The Audiophile

With noise-cancellation headphones plugged firmly into a headphone amplifier, the audiophile is a picture of oblivion to the rest of the outside world. You definitely want to have the aisle seat if you’re seated next to The Audiophile.

The Audiophile’s pre-flight gadget checklist probably includes:

  • iPod/MP3 music player
  • Portable headphone amplifier
  • Noise-cancellation headphone
  • (Lots of) spare batteries for headphone and portable amplifier

What do you usually bring along when flying, and which category of the gadget-loving crowd do you belong to?