Answers About Free Wireless at Airports for Modern Travelers

free wireless at airports

The use of laptops, smartphones, and tablets is on the rise, and airports are enticing tech-savvy travelers by offering wireless Internet access. The Department of Transportation reports that only 77 per cent of U.S. flights arrive on time. So luckily, because of free wireless at airports, you can go through your emails, latest news headlines or visit your Facebook page while in transit.

Of the United States’ 30 busiest airports, a dozen offer free Internet. Twelve others opt for a tiered plan, sometimes offering free access. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was one of the first big airports to offer free WiFi. And the rest of U.S. airports are fast catching up.

Why Airports are Suddenly Deploying Free WiFi?

WiFi is certainly not cheap and airports have an extensive area to cover, which makes it expensive. But customers want free WiFi and failure to offer uninterrupted wireless connection becomes a competitive disadvantage. Use of smartphones grew 50% in 2013 and global mobile devices stand at 7 billion in 2013. The new generation of travelers always looks for consistent network coverage.

So how do airports manage the expenses to deploy and maintain free WiFi?

Ad supported WiFi has emerged. Several companies willing to run ads collaborate with the airport and the advertisers pay the WiFi bill. So, the airport allows those companies to run banner ads or any other types of advertisements over the airport’s free WiFi.

Why Free WiFi is a Boon to Airport Retailers and Authorities

Not only do customers benefit from free WiFi at airports, retailers located within the premise can also take advantage. Almost all travelers carry smart devices and when they access the free wireless at airports, retailers can monitor their devices. It allows retailers to send a special offer to a customer whenever he or she passes certain shops. The tracking system logged into the WiFi network can identify the movement of passengers in real time. It cannot identify the exact location or the shoppers themselves, but it fetches information relevant for the retailers.

Some travelers fear the presence of an unseen tracker keeping an eye on their movement. However, data is collected to understand how people use restaurants and shops; the duration they spend inside a store; or the amount of time they wait for a coffee from Starbucks. The information gathered is then used to bring customers back to the stores.

Monitoring smartphones and other WiFi enabled gadgets also helps airport authorities identify congested areas. It also displays the wait time for security checkpoints.

How Safe is Free Airport WiFi?

If you connect to an unsecured connection in public, you may face various troubles.

Hackers can collect information from your device easily when you are using unencrypted free wireless at airports. Therefore, it’s not a safe place to disclose your credit card information, bank account information, or perform a transaction.

There is also a chance of identity theft when you are using unencrypted free wireless at airports. So, checking your online profiles is risky too. You have to be a little attentive and careful. If it is not urgent, it’s better to avoid financial transactions at airports.

Computer Photo via Shutterstock


Steven Scheck Steven Scheck is the Principal of Inspire WiFi, the nationwide leader of WiFi networks for the multifamily, hospitality and healthcare industries. He is also very involved in philanthropic causes in Miami and nationally.

2 Reactions
  1. I think that it is no longer an option. With WiFi-enabled gadgets, it is already a necessity to have wireless Internet at airports or any other public place.

    • Yes, I agree with that. All the airport authorities are, therefore, trying to provide free wi-fi for the public. However, the free wi-fi is a boon as far as the network is secure.