Hawaiian Airlines has inked a deal with Starlink, the SpaceX satellite network, to provide complimentary high-speed internet onboard flights between the islands and the continental U.S, Asia, and Oceania as early as next year.
The airline plans to equip select Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft, as well as an incoming fleet of Boeing 787-9s, with Starlink’s satellite internet connectivity service.
“We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait,” said Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram, in a statement.
Free Coloring Books at O’Hare and Midway Airport
If you are passing through Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airport anytime soon, be sure to stop by an info desk to ask for one of the free activity and coloring books. The books are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded as well.
Free stuff and prizes when you explore Indiana
The deals team at Stuck at The Airport loves creative travel campaigns, free stuff, and prizes.
Admission is free to all Indiana State Parks on May 1. That also happens to be the Hoosier State’s free fishing day as well.
Throughout the week, anyone who checks in using the Indiana State Nature Passport becomes eligible for a grand prize that includes a 2022 State Parks Pass, a $50 gift card for camping, and a subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine.
Indiana also has a Culinary Trails Passport and throughout May, anyone who checks in on the I Scream for Ice Cream Trail is eligible to win a gift card from one of the trail stops, courtesy of Indiana Foodways Alliance.
Finally! Travelers now get unlimited, free, high-speed Wi-Fi at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA) and New York Stewart International (SWF) airports.
Previously, passengers were limited to 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi via Boingo.
After that, you needed to switch devices to get another free session – or pony up cash.
Now, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey says the new high-speed Wi-Fi service offers free two-click access to Wi-Fi running a minimum of 20 megabits per second (Mbps) and up to 50 Mbps – in unlimited four-hour sessions.
“While the unprecedented rebuilding of our region’s airports is a multi-year effort, passengers shouldn’t have to wait for better Wi-Fi,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “Simply put, free, reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi has become a bedrock expectation for today’s customers.”
Look for new signage about the enhanced Wi-Fi at the airport terminals and parking garages. To access the new and improved service, log on to the “Free Wi-Fi” listed in the drop-down menus at each airport (i.e. “LGA Wi-Fi,”).
The service is free, but you may need to sit through a short ad before getting your free session.
We can complain all we want about the NY cit -area airports (and now we can complain on better airport Wi-Fi), but the Port Authority seems to be trying to make improvements:
In addition to Wi-Fi, the agency notes that recently-launched mobile-friendly websites give easier access to information such as taxi wait times and lost-and-found info. There are also upgraded restroom facilities in many terminals outfittedwith real-time monitoring of bathroom conditions via customer feedback push-buttons.
Dining options are getting makeovers in many parts of the airports as well.
Longer term: There’s the $8 billion redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, which should get its first new gates by the end of the year. Newark Liberty recently broke ground on a $2.7 billion construction of a new Terminal One to replace Terminal A, And a $13 billion plan to transform JFK was just unveiled promising two major new international terminals at the south and north ends of the airport.
Free Wi-Fi at the airport is one of those amenities travelers have all but come to expect. Still, there are some airports that remain hold-outs in this department.
Los Angeles International Airport has been one of those hold-outs. Although Wi-Fi is complimentary in some airline lounges (and outside some of those lounges… if you know where to go….), but most passengers who need to get on-line must pay to use the T-Mobile service.
With T-Mobile’s contract for LAX Wi-Fi ending, airport officials announced that they’d be seeking a new service that would offer Wi-Fi for free. In the meantime, the Board of Airport Commissioners went ahead and awarded a two-year contract to Miami-based Advanced Wireless Group, which would make WiFi at LAX free – for 45 minutes sessions – starting sometime this summer.
“The service LAX passengers request most is free Wi-Fi,” said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey.
But the Los Angeles City City Council has nixed the deal because of concerns that other internet providers – most notably Los Angeles-based Boingo, which provides WiFi at more than 50 airports (and many hotels) – didn’t get a chance to bid on the interim contract.
Let’s hope they work it out. Because if we have to wait for the competitive bid process to play out, it could take 18 months to two years to check email for free at LAX.
In the meantime, another Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – another hold-out on the free Wi-Fi front – plans to offer free Wi-Fi by year’s end.
In my At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month, I take a look at tiered Wi-Fi service being offered at some airports. The big question is: should you pay?
For years, one of the top if not the top amenity on many road warriors’ wish lists has been free Wi-Fi at the airport.
Slowly but surely, it’s happening.
Take a look at the USATODAY.com Airport Guides, airport websites, and various commercial and user-generated Wi-Fi directories. You’ll see there are now hundreds of U.S. airports offering travelers complimentary wireless Internet access.
Washington’s Dulles and National airports? As of April, 2011, free as well.
Free Wi-Fi sounds great. But during heavy usage times at some airports, service often slows down. And some free airport Wi-Fi has strings. Most often, it’s in the form of advertising a user must view before getting online.
At Denver International Airport, “Sometimes it’s a session sponsorship, such as a video and then users are directed to the internet,” said DIA spokesperson Laura Coale. “Sometimes it is banner ads.”
At Boston’s Logan International Airport, where 198,000 free Wi-Fi sessions were logged during May, travelers must click through to a second screen before they see the button offering free Wi-Fi. “The user agrees to watch a short commercial or take a survey to gain access to the free site,” said airport spokesperson Mathew Brelis, “That times out after an hour and they need to log back on again.”
There remain some holdouts. Notable among airports that only offer paid Wi-Fi (outside of airline club lounges) are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and JFK, except for JetBlue’s Terminal 5, where complimentary Wi-Fi is offered as an amenity by the airline. There’s a plan underway to provide free Wi-Fi at Los Angeles International Airport within a year.
Is a little Wi-Fi too little?
At some airports that cannot yet swing free Wi-Fi financially or contractually, there is a new model: hybrid, or tiered, service. Complimentary Wi-Fi with limited time and, often, limited bandwidth is available, but for a fee travelers can also choose more secure, robust and unlimited service.
“Some revenue needs to be generated by Boingo, our wireless vendor, to cover the costs of the Wi-Fi system,” explains Houston Airports spokesperson Marlene McClinton, “And charges for upgraded, faster downloads and beyond 45 minutes help.”
“The airport is weighing the possibility of offering entirely free Wi-Fi,” said McClinton, “But a timeline and strategy are still being discussed.”
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has had some form of paid Wi-Fi available since 2000, but in May it began offering travelers a complimentary 30-minute session. Once the free session expires, a customer must wait 24 hours for another, find one of the airport’s free internet kiosks, or purchase premium access from the airport’s Wi-Fi provider, Boingo Wireless, which has roaming agreements with a variety of partners.
“Austin’s airport has different customer groups,” said spokesman Jim Halbrook. “Our business travelers need and pay for a premium Wi-Fi product. The 30-minute complimentary Wi-Fi sessions are a convenient amenity for casual users,” he said. “It’s our way of fulfilling the needs of very different travelers.”
Nashville International Airport is currently evaluating its Wi-Fi options. During the winter, the airport complemented paid airport-wide Wi-Fi with 20 minutes of sponsored Wi-Fi in the Meeter/Greeter areas and in the food court.
“We are still determining the impact of the promotion to our business model,” said airport spokesperson Emily Richard. “Airport officials are studying how to continue to offer a complimentary service to customers that desire it and a level of service and security for those customers who require it.”
For now, sponsored, complimentary Wi-Fi continues to be offered in the food court.
Why just the food court?
“Anecdotal studies say free Wi-Fi may have an overall negative effect on airport revenue,” explains Boingo Wireless spokesman Christian Gunning. “If people are watching a movie on-line they’re not walking around the airport shopping or spending money in the food court.”
Do travelers care?
Karen Marmolejo, a career/life coach in Sacramento, won’t pay for Wi-Fi at an airport, but is grateful when free access is offered. “Generally I don’t need access to the internet for more than 20 minutes anyway as there are many things I can do on my laptop that doesn’t require me to be online,” she said.
But Forrester Research travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt said hybrid Wi-Fi “is a way for airports to avoid building out the infrastructure to support travelers. It is cheap — and annoying… Shame on them.”
Annoying or not, hybrid Wi-Fi plans at airports may be sticking around.
“Consumers are familiar with these kinds of policies where the heaviest users pay higher fees,” said Amy Cravens, senior analyst for In-Stat. “The tiered pricing model has its place in the hotspot market, particularly in airports where the amount of time spent on the network varies so greatly.”
Outside airports, many travelers are already making those choices.
A survey by travel research organization YPartnership found that 67% of frequent travelers have had a bad experience with free Internet while on the road. “Nearly half of those respondents are willing to pay for Internet. They just want fast service to get their work done and to access the Internet for entertainment,” said David Garrison, CEO of iBAHN, the provider of internet service at 300,000 hotel rooms worldwide.
“[T]he explosion in the use of photos and videos — think Facebook, You Tube and devices like iPad — has caused the amount of data per session to go up 50% per year. So free is not free and it’s getting more expensive every year.”
Note: Every bit helps: after I wrote this article I noticed Boingo was celebrating its 10th anniversary by giving away free Wi-Fi minutes and assorted prizes. Get your free Wi-Fi code here.
Now, of course, pretty much every airport is wired and, increasingly, the service is offered for free.
For some reason, Austin’s airport has been a free Wi-Fi holdout.
Not anymore: the Austin airport has worked out a deal with Boingo Wireless to offer complimentary Wi-Fi service. But it’s a hybrid system:
Travelers will only get one complimentary Wi-Fi session each 24 hours, so if you’re doing more than just sending a quick email, you’ll have to pony up and pay for additional, more robust, service.
There are however, some free internet access kiosks at Gates 5, 8, 11, 15, 21 and in baggage claim.
Paid options include: $4.95 for one hour, $7.95 for a day pass, or $9.95 for a month of unlimited access at all of Boingo’s North and South America hotspot locations. If you’re working on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, you can buy one-hour Boingo credits for $1.99 at the iTunes Store.
And if you do find yourself stuck at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, there are plenty of reasons not to spend all your time on the computer.
Austin’s airport has a great deal of art and an ambitious Music in the Air concert series that includes close to a dozen live in-terminal concerts a week.