I’ve been through quite a few airports in the last couple of months, and at each one I’ve tested whether wifi was available. In most cases yes, but rarely is it done well – here’s what airports should do.

1 Easy to access

I want to get online within one or two clicks. I want to get to my email to work, or to the internet to entertain myself. Accessing your wifi service should be as easy as you can make it.

Athens wasn’t; I was sitting in front of a sign promising me wifi access, the only network I could find was “Wifi_Business” which gave me a page in Greek, from which I eventually found a link to a page in English which told me I needed to to access “wifi_free”. It took another ten minutes of wandering and testing and fiddling around to get that to work.

2 Free

You don’t charge me for the electricity of the lights or the water in the bathrooms. Don’t charge me for wifi.

Airports in Zurich, Auckland and Amsterdam all wanted me to pay for the service. I’m stuck in your airport for a few hours between flights – access to wifi makes that bearable, possibly even entertaining. It must be worth something to you to have happy transit passengers. Even the reduction in questions to your info desk or check-in staff must translate to a cost benefit for you.

3 Fast

Whatever I’m doing online I don’t want to wait 5 seconds for a page to load. Make sure your signal and bandwidth deliver a fast wifi service.

The airport at Kuala Lumpur offers free wifi, but on both days I was transiting KL it was as slow as a wet week. With 10 second pageloads it was neither useful nor fun to use.

4 Unlimited time

Given that we’re required to check in hours before the flight, and that transit times are 90 minutes or more (on intercontinental routes), don’t limit the time I can be online.

Athens gave me sixty minutes of free wifi – cool. But my transit time was 3 hours.

5 Network your wifi

Visitors will move through the airport, they may have to wait at the check-in desk, they may stop at a cafe after check-in, they may have to wait at the gate. Don’t make them access new wifi hubs or log in again.

At Corfu airport (which delivered easy, free, fast, unlimited wifi) the service is not networked, so as I moved from one hub to another I had to go back to the settings panel on my iPad and select a new wifi server.

Of the airports I’ve visited of late I think Sydney and Hong Kong were the only two who met all the above criteria. What’s the status of wifi at the airports you use? Any good examples of wifi service to share?

image Free Wireless Internet /Wesley Fryer/ CC BY 2.0

4 thoughts on “5 Essentials for Wifi in Airports

  1. there should be a way to secure them too as .. you dont know if ur getting connected to a rogue one and lose all your password in a go!! nice article, cheers

    1. Thanks Saad, agree – I suspect securing of wifi is something I’ll write about in the future. Partly because of the fun I’ve had using wifi on my travels (and not just in airports).

  2. When I tried to access wifi at Schiphol I was thrown immediately into a KPN paywall – will look harder next time.

    Haven’t been to Tallinn – but a number of cities are taking the approach that wifi is an infrastructure need. Hong Kong seems to be on that track and Den Haag is apparently doing the same.

  3. Louise, Schiphol actually offers 1h of free wifi… if you select the right wifi network 😉 just as in Athens.

    From what I’ve seen, the best free wifi in terms of ease and quality can be found in Tallinn airport (where else, there’s free wifi just about everywhere around Tallinn).

    For an exhaustive list of free wifi in airports (I don’t know how updated it is, though) check http://www.wififreespot.com/airport.html

    BTW If I had to rate the 5 items you mention in decreasing order of relevance: 2-4-3-1-5

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