Posts in the category "Wi-Fi":

In progress: wish list of airport amenities for 2014

Hilo Airport one mile

2014 will arrive in just a few days and here at Stuck at the Airport we’re making a wish list of amenities we’d like to see touch down at airports in the new year.

Here’s a list of some of the “wants” that have been sent to me so far. Feel free to add your own…

“More outlets”

“More massage places”

“Free basic Wi-Fi in all airports”

“CVS-type stores”

“Wireless recharging spots”

“More relaxation areas like those at Helsinki and Taiwan airports”

“More 10-minute manicures and Minute Suites”

“Working electrical outlets”

“More work desks”

We’re got a few more days to add to the list, so please let me know what fresh amenities you’d like to see in airports in 2014.

Fast in-flight Wi-Fi: more important than legroom or lavs?

Not everyone wants or needs Wi-Fi access on a plane. For those who do, fast and reliable Wi-Fi is a such a priority, some say they’d even forgo access to the lavatory to get it, according to an industry survey.

Honeywell Aerospace, one of the companies that makes equipment for in-flight Wi-Fi service, surveyed 3,000 in-flight Wi-Fi users from London, the United States and Singapore and found that nearly 90 percent (86 percent in the United States; 89 percent in London; and 87 percent in Singapore;) would be willing to give up a physical amenity such as legroom, a reclining seat, preferred seating and even access to the bathroom in exchange for better in-flight connectivity.

The online survey was conducted via email invitation between May 15 and June 10 and polled 2,008 Americans, 508 Londoners and 501 Singaporeans ages 18 and over who used in-flight Wi-Fi in the prior 12 months.

In the survey, 61 percent of Americans (compared with 59 percent in London and 53 percent in Singapore,) said not having Wi-Fi during their entire flight would be worse than having a seat that doesn’t recline. About 76 percent of Americans (and 73 percent in both London and Singapore,) said a slow Wi-Fi connection was more irksome than slow snack and beverage services during a flight.

And, in exchange for the best Wi-Fi service possible, 42 percent of Americans said they’d be happy to forgo the in-flight snacks, 22 percent would give up beverage service and 13 percent (17 percent in London and 22 percent in Singapore) would trade away their lavatory privileges.

“Wi-Fi is becoming an important amenity and one that can’t be brought on-board by consumers as food and drinks can be,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, a consulting organization, “That might explain why travelers are so eager for it.”

In most cases, the number of travelers who said they’d actually give up an amenity in exchange for a better Wi-Fi signal was sharply lower than those who simply rated fast Wi-Fi as highly desirable. But these results show that “in-flight Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury, but considered a part of what passengers expect in travel comfort.” said Bill Kircos, Honeywell Aerospace vice president of Communications.

But no matter what this vendor-sponsored survey says, for now, “the majority of travelers absolutely will not trade off amenities they consider to be more essential, such as legroom, for Wi-Fi,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing.

A February survey by TripAdvisor of 2,000 travelers underlines his point. While one quarter of respondents said they’d choose one airline over another if it offered in-flight Wi-Fi, the top five biggest complaints about air travel were uncomfortable seats/limited legroom, airline fees and ticket prices, unpredictable flight delays, long security lines and annoyances from loud children and other passengers—not slow Wi-Fi.

“Some passengers will prefer to stay offline while aloft and others consider Wi-Fi to be as essential as the bar cart,” Harteveldt told CNBC by email. “I’m writing you to now from a plane, so I’d certainly put myself in the latter group. But not everyone in my row, or the rows ahead or behind me, is online.”

Still, technology marches on. And while no one has yet devised a way keep babies from crying on airplanes, faster and more reliable in-flight Wi-Fi is on the way.

Kircos said Honeywell Aerospace and its partners are working on a satellite-based system that will provide “a high-speed, consistent and across-ocean wireless connectivity experience.” Other companies, including Row 44, a subsidiary of Global Eagle Entertainment, are working on services they say will do the same. And on Wednesday, Gogo, which currently provides in-flight connectivity to more than 2,000 commercial aircraft and more than 6,500 business aircraft, announced a new hybrid technology that it says will perform at least six times faster than the current service. “Gogo is adding an extra ‘down’ connection from the satellites to its ground-based system. Together, it promises a big bump,” said John Walton, director of data for Routehappy.

The service will be available in the second half of 2014, with Virgin America as the launch partner.

(My story about what passengers might give up in exchange for faster in-flight Wi-Fi first appeared on the CNBC Road Warrior blog.)

Faster free Wi-Fi at SFO Airport

SFO PINBALL CONTROL TOWER

 

Yes, some things about hanging around the airport in the old days were better.

But today we have airports with gourmet dining and museum-quality exhibitions.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has all that, as well as a free Wi-Fi service that was recently upgraded to a faster, ad-free version that offers connect times that now last up to two hours.

The service also extends to the Rental Car Center.

Nice.

How to find free Wi-Fi at airports

San Diego Airport new seats

If your business takes you to or through a few airports on a regular basis you already know if the Wi-Fi is free (and the location of the power outlets and best coffee).

But it’s often less than straightforward to jump online if you start or end your trip in an unfamiliar airport.

Many airports proudly promote their free Wi-Fi on concourse signs, on their websites and whenever someone in the airport opens a browser.

“As airlines consolidate and airports compete for traffic and air service, every little amenity helps to lure flyers, and free Wi-Fi is a great perk to keep consumers happy while they wait for the flights,” said Airfarewatchdog President George Hobica.

But, citing economic factors and long-running contracts, many airports still charge for Wi-Fi or offer just a few minutes of free access. Some airports, including O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, allow travelers to visit some tourism and shopping websites for free, but if you want to check email or conduct business, it will cost you. Still others are moving to a hybrid plan offering limited Wi-Fi for free but more robust service for a fee.

“A typical airline passenger carries two Internet-enabled devices such as a laptop and smartphone, or a smartphone and tablet,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and strategist with Hudson Crossing. And because many of these devices are bandwidth hogs, “we’re seeing some airports charge extra for high-bandwidth activities such as audio and video downloads.”

You can poke around an airport’s website for the status of the Wi-Fi offered, but there are a few other ways to determine if an airport offers free or fee-based Wi-Fi.

Jaunted.com has an airport Wi-Fi map that draws Wi-Fi status information from the on-the-ground experiences of its writers and tips from travelers who use the map and send reports on where they’ve successfully accessed complimentary airport Wi-Fi.

“The main challenge right now is noting what networks are truly free and unlimited (examples: Hong Kong, JFK’s Terminal 5) and which are ad-supported, limited-time connections, as the latter is becoming more common, but not less confusing,” said Jaunted’s managing editor Cynthia Drescher.

The team at Airfarewatchdog just published its own downloadable airport Wi-Fi chart offering a snapshot of the Wi-Fi offered at many popular U.S. and international airports. But the chart is already out of date.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, for example, is listed as “pricing unavailable,” but travelers currently get 30 free minutes of free Wi-Fi per device. In September the airport will switch providers (from Boingo to AWG) and begin offering free, faster Wi-Fi. (An advertisement will be shown every 45 minutes and paid higher-speed Wi-Fi will also be available.)

The Airfarewatchdog chart also doesn’t include the fact that in Houston, both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport offer 45 minutes of complimentary Wi-Fi to passengers. According to airport spokesperson Darian Ward, the goal is to begin rolling out completely free Wi-Fi in some terminals by the end of the year.

If you’re at an airport with a fee for Wi-Fi and you are unwilling to enter your credit card information, some travelers have had luck getting passwords for the Wi-Fi signal in airline lounges and cafes by using a free mobile phone app or search engine to look on sites such as Faceboook, Foursquare or Twitter for passwords being shared by other travelers.

(But you didn’t hear that here.)

My story about Where to find free Wi-Fi at airports first appeared on the CNBC Road Warrior blog.

Wi-Fi updates for O’Hare, Midway & Miami airports

Bucking a very definite trend, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as Miami International Airport still charge for Wi-Fi access that would allow you to check email and take care of other business.

But these airports all now offer travelers free access to a wide variety of other on-line destinations.

At Miami International Airport, AWG (Advanced Wireless Group) is now delivering a free live stream of the CNN Airport Network on the wireless system that includes HBO, TBS, TNT and TCM programming as well as sports events and Spanish-language content from CNN Latino.

In Chicago, where Boingo provides the paid Wi-Fi service at O’Hare and Midway, there’s now a free Wi-Fi portal they’re calling “The Good Stuff” that gives travelers free access to about 30 sites for news, weather, shopping, entertainment, banking, travel and tourism, as well as local contact information.

To find “The Good Stuff” at O’Hare or Midway, go to the Boingo Wi-Fi network and click on the “The Good Stuff” panel on the left side on the page. Here’s where you can surf to for free:
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GOOD STUFF

 

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