With more and more airports transforming into Airports 2.0 – technology-enabled next-generation airports with great food and shopping opportunities and a local culture feel – we’ve decided to roll up a list of the airports with the best free airport Wi-Fi, to keep you productive and mobile this holiday season.
First of all, let me caveat this all by saying that many airports offer “free” Wi-Fi. But, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Even though they are free of cost, they still ask you to make an investment – either your time (forcing you to watch an ad) or your personal information (through an app download or access request form). The reason this is typically the case is that putting in airport Wi-Fi costs money. Someone has to pay to put the hardware in place to provide us all with an airport Wi-Fi signal. Large operators like Boingo offer paid Wi-Fi in most U.S. airports – but for airports to offer it gratis, they must foot the bill. Some of them build Wi-Fi in to operating budgets, just the way Starbucks does – but most require ad-based revenue to pay for the installation and operations cost.
If you want free free – the best place to go is always the Airport Lounges, typically the ones sponsored by the airlines. The reason why these have free free airport Wi-Fi is because these are the membership-driven pay to play lounges. So part of the entrance fee goes to providing “free” Wi-Fi without ads or personal information capture. In many of these lounges, you will need to enter in your frequent flier membership number to gain access (and this keeps the people without membership out, which keeps the signal from becoming weak and degraded through too many users).
One of the best airport technology surveys we’ve seen is this one by PCWorld – which measures not only Wi-Fi speeds but also includes factors like the number of work desks and outlets.
Here are the top North American top 3 airport Wi-Fi results:
- Dallas Fort Worth: DFW has provided free Wi-Fi in all five of its terminals since 2012 with daily Wi-Fi connections of 55,000. Average speeds are 8 Mbps, according to the airport.
- New York International Airport: JFK now boasts desks and counters with outlets galore in some Terminals – great for sitting down to get some work done. Terminals 2 and 3 (Delta) and Terminal 5 (JetBlue) offer the most work surfaces and outlets, as well as decent free Wi-Fi. Your best bet in the other Terminals is to purchase Boingo Wi-Fi (for a fee). Terminal 5 is particularly awesome, and boasts one of the best airport experiences out there. One of the nice-touch features that JFK now boasts is iPad kiosk ordering systems, where you can order your food and have it brought to you.
- Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport: ATL has become awesome with airport Wi-Fi only recently (2014). As the busiest and the largest airport in the US, it was a huge undertaking to supply passengers with power, workspaces, and Wi-Fi at all its gates. Current statistics show that ATL now has 1377 outlets in the entire airport, an average of 8.1 per gate. ATL also offers clusters of charging stations
Be sure to try to work Helsinki Airport, Changi Airport, Incheon Airport, and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport into your itinerary. Those four coupled with DFW (which wins first place in global airport Wi-Fi), round out the top 5 world-wide airport Wi-Fi list.
For further information, another nice airport Wi-Fi collection is listed here.