For a while back in the late 1990s, when free Wi-Fi at airports didn’t exist and everyone didn’t have their own laptops, a company called Laptop Lane installed banks of small, rentable work spaces at airports with computers, printers, Internet access and, best of all, an enclosed space that offered privacy.
That company is long gone, but people at airports still seek quiet spaces to get things done.
So rentable work pods are back.
A startup called Jabbrrbox just installed eight workpods in Terminal B at New York’s LaGuardia Airport where travelers can buy increments of time (i.e. $15 for 30 minutes) and get access to an acoutically-sound work space with a desk, free and reliable Wi-Fi and a photobooth app. Additional tools for users include a camera for video conference callas and in-booth speakers.
Of course, you don’t need to use the booths for working. You can just as easily pop in for a nap.
We all want unlimited free Wi-Fi at the airport and, increasingly, we’re getting it.
But not in the New York City-area at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports.
Back in June 2014 the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced its intention to provide complimentary 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions throughout JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports by the fall of 2014.
Some progress was made, but the deadline to complete the project got pushed back to March 2015 and today there are still major holes in the promised Wi-Fi coverage at these airports.
The official websites for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark still say Wi-Fi is provided everywhere on a pay-as-you-go basis. But the promised 30 minutes of complimentary Wi-Fi is available in some terminals all the time and in others on an occasional basis.
Six terminals now have the 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi offer in place and Port Authority says it is “working with Boingo to help expedite the placement of the service in the remaining terminals.”
For the terminals where the project is not yet completed, Boingo offers 20- or 30-minute complimentary Wi-Fi sessions, but only when sponsorships are available.
So when and where are complimentary Wi-Fi sessions offered?
Terminals currently offering 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi include:
• Newark: Terminals B and C
• JFK: Terminals 4 and 8
• LaGuardia: Terminal A and B
Terminals pending conversion, but where sponsored sessions are offered 50% of the time include:
• Newark: Terminal A
• JFK: Terminals 1, 2 and 7
• LaGuardia: Terminals C and D
Elsewhere, though, JetBlue independently provides unlimited free Wi-Fi in Terminal 5 at JFK and OTG offers unlimited complimentary web browsing on more than 3,000 fixed iPads in some gate areas and restaurants in Newark, JFK and LaGuardia.
“The Port Authority’s announcement of free WiFi in June was a major win for passengers, and the right thing to do,” said Joe Stitt, Chairman and Founder of the advocacy group Global Gateway Alliance, “But the agency now needs to honor that commitment and bring true free WiFi to every terminal at our airports for all 112 million New York-New Jersey passengers.”
Neither Boingo nor the Port Authority responded to requests for a new target date for the completion of the project.
On Monday, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey introduced a wide variety of customer service improvements at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports, but it was AVA, the airport virtual assistant, that got all the attention.
In July, when the computerized avatars begin offering automated information at LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building, at Newark’s Terminal B and at JFK’s Terminal 5, it will be the first time the hologram-like technology will be used at a North American airport.
Other improvements to be rolled out in the next 90 days include additional (live) customer care agents during peak travel times, an expanded effort to halt taxi hustling, the installation of additional power poles to charge electronic devices and cleaner restroom facilities.
Here are some more details from the plan:
At Newark Liberty, more than 100 chairs and more than 50 tables will be added to food courts in Terminals A and B, full-time restroom attendants will be on duty in Terminal A and additional quality control visits will be made to airport stores “to ensure customers are treated fairly.”
Newark, JFK, LaGuardia (and Stewart International Airport) are now included in the free FlySmart mobile app that offers real-time flight notifications for smart phones, terminal maps and basic listings for ground transportation and concessions.
The Port Authority is also starting a “We Listen” campaign to give travelers a chance to meet with airport management.
These short-term initiatives, the Port Authority points out, dovetail with the agency’s long-term efforts to improve the infrastructure at all three airports.
It all sounds promising. Except perhaps for those virtual assistants. In the promo “AVA” says she never takes a vacation, but when I arrived at Dubai International Airport recently, the representative meeting our group said the virtual assistants that were supposed to be on duty there hadn’t been working “for quite some time.”