20 Best U.S. Airports for Tech Travelers
Top 20 Tech-Friendly Airports: #5 to #10
#5 Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
Sacramento International Airport's impressive new Terminal B is nirvana for mobile device users. Completed last year, it's packed with more than 140 triangle-shaped tables, each of which holds a standard two-plug outlet and two USB ports at the corners. We counted 647 outlets and 912 USB ports in Terminal B alone. SMF has offered free Wi-Fi at Terminals A and B since 2006.
"If that's not enough, there are fee-based Internet kiosks and rapid-charging stations and InMotion and Brookstone stores ready to sell batteries, chargers, noise-cancellation headphones, laptop adapters, and more to eager technophiles," says SMF spokesperson Laurie Slothower.
#6 Oakland International Airport (OAK)
On the plus side, Oakland International Airport offers ample outlets at the gate areas and a healthy number of USB outlets. On the negative side, you'll find a proper work deskonly every five gates, on average. Southwest has helped matters considerably by installing numerous charging stations--a small wooden table with a two-plug electrical outlet and two easy-to-access USB ports between pairs of large, comfortable chairs.
If you're lucky to find one of these between-chair stations, you can sit in relative comfort with your device charging beside you, though working on your laptop while it's parked on the wooden table can be a bit awkward. For travelers who can't find a comfy chair to sit in, Southwest has installed numerous "power stations"--tall walk-up tables usually studded with five outlets each.
#7 New York LaGuardia (LGA)
Like the Big Apple's other big airport, JFK, LaGuardia is an older facility that has become decidedly more tech-friendly in some respects over the past few years. The number of available outlets per gate now exceeds 7.2, and the airport's Wi-Fi service averages a workable 2.5 mbps on average throughout the airport.
Perhaps the most promising tech development at LaGuardia is the work of Delta and its restaurant management partner OTG. They've installed 70 iPad kiosks in Terminal D. As at JFK, travelers can sit at a high table (with outlets) and use the embedded iPad to access restaurant menus, flight updates, weather conditions, and online entertainment while waiting for their flights. The iPads at LaGuardia have been so popular that Delta and OTG plan to install an additional 400 of the devices by early 2012, OTG's Aziz says.
#8 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
Like many other airports around the country, Salt Lake City International has been adding electrical outlets to its gates over the past few years--and today the gates at SLC provide an average of 5.4 outlets and 3.0 USB ports each. We counted 23 workspaces (19 desks and 4 cubicles) scattered around the airport, most of which included a power outlet. We didn't spot any Internet kiosks or business centers, however.
The Wi-Fi service at SLC is free, and it's faster than the 40-airport average. In our tests, the Salt Lake City airport's average Wi-Fi speed was around 2 mbps for downloads airport-wide, and 2.2 mbps for uploads. As for the cellular service, Verizon LTE pumped out average download speeds of 4.3 mbps, while Sprint averaged 2.2 mbps, and AT&T and T-Mobile each averaged 1.3 mbps.
#9 Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
BWI bills itself as the "easy come, easy go" airport, since it offers a relatively stress-free commute for laptop and smartphone users who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia.
Baltimore-Washington Airport averages more than 7.3 outlets per gate; and many of the gates feature comfortable seats and work stations, with access to power outlets and USB ports. These come courtesy of Southwest, which operates in 26 gates in the A and B terminals, accounting for 70 percent of traffic through the airport.
But BWI's greatest strength is its Wi-Fi service. We measured an average download speed of 6.5 mbps and an average upload speed of 2.5 mbps in our tests throughout the airport's five concourses; those numbers make BWI's Wi-Fi service the fifth-fastest among major U.S. airports. The airport currently offers a fee-based service, but like many other airports, it is looking into the possibility of introducing a free service sometime next year.
Cellular service at Baltimore-Washington wasn't bad either. In our tests, the average download speeds for the four major carriers were 4 mbps for Verizon, 3.22 mbps for AT&T, 3 mbps for T-Mobile, and 1.76 mbps for Sprint.
#10 San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Competing with Oakland International and San Jose International to serve perhaps the most tech-savvy market in the country, San Francisco International Airport must contend with travelers' high expectations regarding tech amenities. For the most part, it delivers. The airport averages 13.6 outlets per gate, by far the most in the United States for such a large airport.
SFO has some older terminal buildings, but the spanking new Terminal 2--home base for Virgin America--may represent the future of air travel. T2 is simple, clean, and spacious, with a distinctly high-tech ambience: It looks and feels like Silicon Valley.
Virgin America played a major role in designing the terminal, right down to the signature mood lighting that Virgin America uses at its ticket counters and gates. The interior is filled with cool lounge areas and tastefully appointed gates that make you feel as if you're in someone's living room. Even more important, the place is loaded with electrical outlets and spacious desktops. We counted almost 400 outlets and 144 workspaces in T2 alone.
The other terminals at SFO have a fustier feel to them, but designers have retrofitted plenty of those terminals' gates with new outlets in the walls and on poles; and many gates now also have sets of two- or four-cubicle desks, complete with electrical outlets.