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Finding Airport Wi-fi

By Expert Author: Steve Robinson

Given the importance of cheap travel options, such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, and cheap vacation packages, the preference of most travelers is to find free Wi-Fi at airports.

Unfortunately that is not always possible. While it is true that many airports tout their free Wi-Fi on concourse signs and when visitors open browsers at the airport, many other airports continue to charge for Wi-Fi or offer only a few minutes of free access. Reasons for limiting Wi-Fi range from economic considerations to long running contracts.

Some airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway allow visitors to check out select tourist and shopping websites for free, but require payment for those wanting to check email, stream video or audio, or conduct business. Other airports have developed a hybrid Wi-Fi plan where limited Wi-Fi (such as surfing the web and/or checking emails) is offered for free but more robust service (streaming video) comes with a fee.

The average flier travels with two Internet enabled devices such as a laptop and smartphone, or a tablet and smartphone.

One of the ways to check to see if an airport you will be using offers free or fee based Wi-Fi is to check out ‘Jaunted” which is part of the Conde Nast Traveler Network. Jaunted has an airport Wi-Fi map that combines Wi-Fi airport information from its writers with tips from travelers who use the map and send reports where they have been able to access complimentary airport Wi-Fi.

Free ad supported, limited time connections are becoming more common at airports.

Airfarewatchdog recently released its own downloadable airport Wi-Fi chart that summarizes the status of Wi-Fi at many popular U.S. and International airports. Unfortunately Wi-Fi contracts at many airports keep changing and such charts need to be constantly updated to remain accurate.

For example, this chart shows that pricing is unavailable at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, but travelers today are allowed 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi per device. In September the airport will change providers and start offering free, faster Wi-Fi with an ad being displayed every 45 minutes. Paid higher speed Wi-Fi will be available.

The Airfarewatchdog chart did not mention that in Houston that both the Gorge Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport offer 45 minutes of free Wi-Fi to passengers.

If you are determined not to pay for Wi-Fi at airports, some travelers have been able to find passwords for security protected Wi-Fi offered by airline lounges and cafes by using a free mobile phone app or search engine to check out sites such as Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter for passwords being shared by other travelers.

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