The Most and Least Wired Airlines and Airports

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Pop Quiz: How many U.S. airlines currently offer broadband Internet access to all passengers?

If you answered "none," give yourself a pat on the back because you're absolutely right. But that is about to change. Right now, JetBlue--one of the most wired airlines in the U.S.--has one flight that offers limited e-mail service, but not full Web surfing.

Continental, Southwest, Virgin America, and American Airlines are among the carriers testing or launching full e-mail and Web access services in the coming months. If all goes as planned, by early to mid-2009, travelers should have a variety of choices for in-flight Internet access.

When it comes to offering tech amenities, only a few airlines are leading the way, notes Henry H. Harteveldt, vice president and principal airline/travel industry analyst for Forrester Research. That's understandable, given the economic turbulence the airline industry has experienced over the past few years.

Meanwhile, worldwide demand for portable PCs keeps gaining altitude. DisplaySearch expects 228.8 million notebooks will be sold worldwide this year--nearly ten times as many as in 2001. It's a safe bet that the growing ranks of laptop users will translate into growing demand for in-flight Internet access. A recent Forrester Research survey shows 57 percent of all U.S. leisure passengers are interested in going online during a flight.

Here is PC World's roundup of the best U.S. and international airlines for business travelers and tech fans. Our goal: To help make your next airline trip as smooth, productive--and entertaining--as possible. To determine the top carriers for these purposes, we took into account the quality of the airlines' Web sites; availability of mobile browser and SMS tools; departure-gate amenities; in-flight connectivity and entertainment options; and the availability of power ports in all cabins. We also took a look at the most 'wired' U.S. airports, judging where you're most likely to find Wi-Fi connectivity, power recharging stations, and more.

You also need to know which airlines to avoid, at least for now. Our list of the least tech-savvy airlines tells you which carriers offer relatively little in the way of advanced in-flight entertainment, power ports, and other smart options.

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