free Wi-Fi

Finally! Unlimited free Wi-Fi now at O’Hare and Midway Airports

Free Wi-FI at airport

They’re late the party, but last week the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) announced that unlimited free Wi-Fi from Boingo Wirelss is now available at O’Hare International and Midway International Airports.

Until now, free Wi-Fi at these airports was offered for just 30-minutes, but the system is now upgraded to a free, unlimited service that offers streaming capability, courtesy of advertisements that show up every 45 minutes.

Passengers still have the option of buying faster, ad-free Wi-Fi by buying a one-day pass or using a Boingo subscription.

Wider free Wi-Fi on JetBlue

Back in December 2013, JetBlue installed its version of in-flight Wi-Fi, which it calls Fly-Fi, on one airplane and offered the service free while it worked out the kinks and worked on installing the service fleet-wide.

Today the airline is celebrating the fact that the service is now available on its entire fleet of 237 Airbus A320s, A321s and Embraer 190s.

“It’s 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it.” said Jamie Perry, vice president of marketing, JetBlue. “That’s why we’re so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies for all customers on every plane.”

Fly-Fi is still offered for free – and will continue to be free, an airline spokesperson assures me – and is available gate-to-gate, along with the services listed in the infographic below.

To celebrate the milestone, on one JetBlue flight today Amazon Dots will be raffled off and every passenger will get a certificate for a free round-trip flight.

 

Free Wi-Fi at JFK, LGA & EWR? Yup. Sort of.

Free Wi-FI at airport

In June, 2014 the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced its intention to revise its agreement with Boingo and offer complimentary 30-minute Wi-Fi for all passengers at the JFK, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty International Airport and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh by fall.

Did that happen?

Not quite yet.

According to a joint statement from the Port Authority and Boingo, existing wireless networks are currently being upgraded at the Port Authority¹s airports and “free Wi-Fi will be available in at least one terminal at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia Airports by month¹s end, with the free service at all terminals anticipated by the end of the first quarter of 2015.”

Boing spokeswoman Katie O’Neill said that complimentary 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions are currently available in JFK Terminal 4 and Newark (EWR) Terminal C, with free service on target to be available at LaGuardia¹s Central Terminal Building by the end of December.

In the meantime, O’Neill said Boingo is getting sponsors to cover some complimentary 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions and that Amazon, Citi/AA Advantage Card, Volkswagen and American Airlines, and others are lined up to cover sessions at the airports through the end of the year.

Upgrades are also scheduled for Stewart Airport’s Wi-Fi network, sometime in the first quarter of 2015 and O’Neill said Boingo has sponsors lined for complimentary 30-minute sessions there through the end of the year.

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.