May 06, 2004

Airport Access in US

Report on Airport Access includes notes on Neptune Networks installations.

Mobile Computing
Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go.

Airport Web Access, Part II

We look at terminals in the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast.

James A. Martin
Thursday, May 06, 2004

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Feature: Getting Online at the Airport, Part II
In my last column I checked out Web sites for six major East Coast airports. I went in search of information about where business travelers might find Internet access, either of the wired or wireless variety. In most cases, the sites did a poor job of providing that information and of making it easily accessible.


This week I take a look at Web sites for four major U.S. airports in the Midwest and Southwest, and on the West Coast. I found the two best sites I've seen (Dallas/Fort Worth International and Los Angeles International), though even they have room for improvement. So I'll show you where to find the information on all these sites and save you the trouble of rooting around.

Chicago's O'Hare International
Finding information on Internet access at O'Hare's Web site is no easier today than it was 18 months ago, when I first wrote about airport Web sites.

First click Passenger Services on the top menu bar. Then on the gray menu bar, click Business Centers & Airline Clubs, which lists a Laptop Lane in Terminal 1 and a Hilton Business Center in Terminal 2, though the description of the latter says nothing about Internet access availability.

At the moment, T-Mobile is the primary wireless service provider at O'Hare, with hotspots in American, Delta, and United member lounges.

A spokesperson said there are pay phones throughout O'Hare with data ports for dial-up Internet access. Also, the airport is negotiating with wireless service providers to offer Wi-Fi access throughout public areas in O'Hare (and Midway, Chicago's other airport). The service should be up and running by late 2004 or early 2005.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
There hasn't been much change to this site, either, in the last 18 months--and that's good news, given that this airport's Web site is among the best I've seen. It's not exactly flawless, though.

The navigation could use some work, for instance. To find Internet access, you must click Shops & Restaurants on the home page, then click a particular terminal, and finally select the Services tab for the central window. Each terminal offers at least some form of Internet connectivity, including high-speed wired kiosks from Neptune Networks, pay phones with dial-up connections and data ports, and wireless access from T-Mobile and Wayport at airline lounges as well as throughout entire terminals. The site often provides pictures of the kiosks and Internet access rates, too. In short, if you've got to be stuck at an airport with your notebook, get stuck in Dallas.

Los Angeles International Airport
LA's airport site is also among the better ones I've seen, with easy navigation and a fair amount of detail (though not as much as the Dallas/Fort Worth airport site). You have to root around under Passenger Services to find the Internet access options listed on its Business Center page.

At the site, I discovered The Travel Right Caf, a cybercaf in Terminal 4's Departure Level with 48 data ports/phone jacks and power outlets that can accommodate up to 68 users.

Neptune Networks offers wired broadband kiosks in Terminals 3, 7, and 8 and in the Tom Bradley International Terminal Mezzanine Level. Internet data port access is available at all public telephones throughout the airport, according to the site.

Boingo provides wireless hotspots in Terminals 1, 3, 5, and 7, while T-Mobile offers service at the American Airlines Admirals Club.

A spokesperson said there are plans to offer wireless Internet access in all public areas of the airport sometime in the next two years.

San Francisco International Airport
SFO's Web site does one of the worst jobs I've seen in pointing travelers toward Internet access. Judging from its Web site, San Francisco International--the gateway to Silicon Valley--doesn't offer much in the way of Internet access for travelers. But that's not the case.

The City by the Bay's airport Web site has added Wireless Internet Access to its list of services. But clicking it simply brings up a brief explanation and a link to the T-Mobile HotSpot's landing page, where you have to perform another search to find hotspot locations within the airport. The good news: T-Mobile has planted Wi-Fi hotspots in every public area of the airport, as well as in many airline lounges, according to an airport spokesperson. The hotspots are marked with signs so as to be easily located, he added.

Neptune Networks also offers an Internet kiosk in Terminal 3 and in the Virgin Atlantic Airways Clubhouse, according to its Web site.

The airport's services listing on its Web site also includes telephones equipped with data ports, but the site says no more than that they "are located throughout the terminals." In my experience, these pay phones are fairly plentiful and easy to find.

Online Resources
Here are hotspot locators for specific providers:

Boingo Wireless
Laptop Lane
Neptune Networks
Sprint PCS Wi-Fi Zone
Here are some more resources:

Need some Wi-Fi hardware? One of the best-stocked e-commerce sites I've seen is MobilePlanet.
The Wi-Fi Zone, operated by the nonprofit association Wi-Fi Alliance, offers a searchable database of hotspots.
PC World has a hotspot locator as well.
My "Guide to Wi-Fi Hotspots" includes tips and suggestions for finding hotspots.

Your Feedback
Do you have any tips or suggestions for finding or using a wired or wireless broadband Internet connection at the airport? If so, write me. - Mobile Computing: Airport Web Access, Part II

Posted by Craig at May 6, 2004 02:55 PM