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Inflight mobile phone calls coming soon. Thoughts?

Passengers on this gorgeous Air New Zealand A320 can now make cell phone calls in flight. (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Passengers on this gorgeous Air New Zealand A320 can now make cell phone calls in flight. (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Whether you like it or not, in-flight mobile calls may soon be coming to an airline near you.

Air New Zealand recently signed up with Geneva-based OnAir, an onboard system that allows airline passengers to use mobile phones, laptops and other portable devices to communicate with the ground using voice and/or data connections.

While some carriers, such as British Airways and Qatar Airways, use OnAir to allow only data communications (text, e-mail), Air New Zealand joins several other airlines, such as Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Jordanian and TAP Air Portugal, that use the technology to allow mobile voice calls on certain flights. It’s a highly controversial notion in the US, where lawmakers have proposed laws that would ban in-flight voice calls.

OnAir and other companies such as Aeromobile employ picocell technology, deemed safe by aviation authorities. With the flip of a switch, any airline using OnAir can set the system to offer both data and voice calls on any flight. (Voice calling is available to anyone with a GSM phone and an international roaming agreement- calls typically run $2-$3 per minute)

To read the rest of this post and learn which other airlines could be offering cell phone service, click here and read it on my BBC.com Travel Blog

Top 10 predictions for BATs in 2011

(Photo: Garry Knight / Flickr)

It’s that time of year again…when travel pundits and prognosticators do their best to gaze into the future and predict what may or may not happen in the big wide world of travel in the coming year.

Here are my top ten predictions for frequent travelers in 2011:

1-RISING PRICES. Business travel prices will continue to rise, but not enough to dampen renewed demand.

2-AIRFARE. Fares will continue to rise sharply, especially for flights between cities where only one or two legacy carriers operate. From the Bay Area, all you have to do is follow the route maps of Virgin America, Southwest and JetBlue to know where the deals are (or aren’t). Also, prepare for more fuel surcharges if oil hits $100 per barrel- it’s currently about $89 and rising.

3-TRAVEL DEALS. In terms of travel deals, there will be a wider gap between peak season and off-season prices. Those with flexibility to travel outside the peak travel dates will continue to find good deals and more short-term “flash” type sales. Those who must travel during peak periods will face sticker shock.

4-HOTEL RATES. Due to continued overcapacity, hotel rates should remain about the same or slightly up, on average, over the next year. Hotel rates in New York City will rise, but a steady supply of new hotels opening there should keep rate inflation to acceptable levels, especially among mid-tier properties.

5-FREE WI-FI. More upscale hotel chains will join their midscale counterparts to offer free in-room Wi-Fi. We’ll also see hoteliers pay more attention to bandwidth issues on their existing systems. What good is free Wi-Fi if it doesn’t work? In-flight Wi-Fi prices could moderate as Southwest’s $5 flat fee for inflight Wi-Fi expands to more flights.

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6-LONGER STAYS. Hotel chains will offer more loyalty program promotions designed to get travelers to increase the duration of their stays. (Such as “buy two nights, get the third free.”)

7-DRIVING VS. FLYING. Due to recent changes in security screening, the airport hassle factor could return, and more frequent travelers will consider driving instead of flying. The “five hour rule” might change to the “six hour rule.”

8-MOBILE DEVICES. We’ll see more focus on business travelers’ smart phones, which will soon be used to open hotel room doors and will be accepted as payment instead of credit cards. There will be more promotions designed to encourage the use of mobile devices to book and manage travel reservations

Old school Airfone

9-IN-FLIGHT PHONING. In-flight phone calling, now available on several non-U.S. airlines will become more prevalent and might even be considered by a domestic carrier. High per-call rates and peer pressure should keep abuse in check- remember those pricey GTE Airfones that no one ever used because they were too expensive? I expect the same with in-flight cell phone use.

10-MEETINGS & CONVENTIONS. More of us will attend large annual trade shows and conventions this year as pent up demand is released. Many companies banned non-essential travel over the last two years and business travelers are eager to get out of the office and re-establish face-to-face contact with customers and colleagues. However, I think small and medium-sized meetings will face more competition from virtual alternatives.

5 tips for navigating the “new” airport security

(Photo: USWGO / Flickr)

The peak holiday travel season is upon us. At the same time, the media frenzy surrounding new airport security measures has hit a peak. I’ve cut through the hype and come up with five tips (and pics!) travelers need to know about airport screening:

1) RELAX! Despite the media hullabaloo, chances are that you won’t face a full body scan or pat down at all in coming weeks. Full body scanners are currently deployed at only 70 of 450 airports across the country. At those 70 airports, most security lanes are using more good old-fashioned magnetometers (metal detectors) than the newer (and more controversial) full body scanners. Also, know that every single passenger does NOT get the new enhanced pat down. Only those who set off the metal detector, appear to have an anomaly on their body during a full body scan, or those who refuse a full body scan are subject to a pat down.

2) BAY AREA AIRPORTS. In the Bay Area, San Jose airport appears to have the most widespread use of full body scanners.

>At SJC Terminals A and B there are 16 security lanes (total) and eight full body scanners, which means one scanner for each pair of lanes- so you’ve got a 50/50 chance.

>SFO uses nine full body scanners scattered across a total of 44 lanes. There’s at least one at each multi-lane checkpoint, except the one near Gate 75 (at the far left end of United’s Terminal 3, which is usually reserved for first, business and elite level frequent flyers only).

>Oakland’s airport has two security checkpoints with a total of 15 security lanes, but airport officials would only tell me that body scanners are in use at both checkpoints- they would not reveal how many there are. (Do you know? Leave a comment below.)

3) PLAN AHEAD. Remember that you now have to remove EVERYTHING from your pockets to get through security. To avoid last minute forgetfulness or hassles (such as the dreaded full-body pat down), prepare for security BEFORE you leave for the airport. Put cell phone, keys, wristwatch, jewelry, pocket change, handkerchief, Kleenex or anything else in your pockets into a Ziploc bag. Your wallet should also go in the Ziploc, but remove your photo ID first and keep that in your pocket, along with your boarding pass for review as you enter the security area. Pack the Ziploc in an easily accessible outer pocket of your carry on. Once you get to your gate, pull out the Ziploc and re-assemble.

4) LOOK AHEAD. When entering the security screening area, look ahead and try to determine which lanes are using magnetometers and which are using full body scanners. Try to aim for a line using a magnetometer. This won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid the full body scanner because TSA agents could ask you to move to a different line at the last minute- but that’s rare.

5) KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR. Below are images of a magnetometer, a millimeter wave scanner and a backscatter scanner. Remember, aim for the line with the magnetometer (or metal detector).

This is a magnetometer or metal detector. Try to aim for a security line using this.

This is a magnetometer or metal detector. Try to aim for a security line using this.

Backscatter full-body scanners in use at airports in San Jose and Oakland.

Backscatter full-body scanners in use at airports in San Jose and Oakland.

A millimeter wave scanner similar to those in use at San Francisco International SFO.

A millimeter wave scanner similar to those in use at San Francisco International SFO.

Southwest to charge $5 for Wi-Fi

You'll know you have Wi-Fi when you see the

You’ll know you have Wi-Fi when you see the “internet bubble” on the top of the plane (Photo: gTarded / Flickr)

Southwest Airlines announced this week that it will charge $5 per flight, regardless of length, for in-flight Wi-Fi. (Competitors charge from $6 to $13 depending on flight length.)

Here’s what you need to know now:

>The new satellite-based service from Row 44 is currently on just 32 Southwest aircraft; the airline says it will be on 60 by the end of this year. Southwest plans to have its entire fleet (currently about 550 Boeing 737′s) outfitted by the end of 2013.

>Currently there is no way to know whether or not the Southwest flight you are reserving offers Wi-Fi. You know you have it when see “Wi-Fi Hotspot” stickers onboard, or see the “internet bubble” on the top of the plane.

>Southwest recently announced that it will buy AirTran, which offers the Gogo system from Aircell on 100 percent of its planes. Southwest says that it will keep that service for the time being, honoring current contracts, but will re-evaluate when those contracts expire.

>Interesting: Southwest says that it “will attempt to filter out” access to VoIP services that could allow inflight phone calls. I think that wording is interesting because it leaves the door open…and I’m betting that despite all the howls, in-flight phone calling is coming soon to a flight near you, as it already has in other countries.

>Unlike Virgin America, Southwest does not (and has no plans to) provide in-seat power plugs. This could be an issue because Wi-Fi drains batteries very quickly.

>In other in-flight Wi-Fi news: JetBlue recently announced that it will have full-on inflight Wi-Fi by 2012. (Currently it offers limited connectivity for smartphones only on a single “Beta-Blue” aircraft.) However firm dates for installation and deployment have not been set. Delta recently completed the largest fleet-wide installation to date: Its entire mainline fleet (500+ jets) now has in-flight Wi-Fi from Aircell/Gogo.

I’m a huge fan of in-flight Wi-Fi. As a matter of fact, my buying decision is now based on whether or not my flight will have the service- particularly on those long transcon flights. I don’t mind paying the $13 fee, either.

What about you? How do you feel about in-flight Wi-Fi? Has it changed the way you fly? Would you ever use it to place a VoIP call? Do you feel it’s priced right? Leave your comments below.

Airport CLEAR program makes a comeback

Remember the CLEAR registered traveler program? Those who shelled out $179 per year got a special bio-metric membership card, which provided access to exclusive, shorter security lines at 21 airports across the country.

While CLEAR won the hearts and wallets of its customers, it struggled with debt and demand and abruptly shut down last June.

In recent months, a new company called Alclear announced an agreement to purchase the assets of the old company (Verified Identity Pass) and crank the operation back up.

Alclear’s first move was to update the www.flyclear.com web site, which had been dormant. The revived site encourages previous, new, or just curious travelers to fill out a form and vote on which airports where they’d like to see the service. (The site updated again on June 25 with more new info.)

CLEAR says that it will be in both Denver and Orlando later this fall. Prior to shut down, CLEAR was at all three Bay Area airports, OAK, SFO and SJC. But don’t get your hopes up for a quick return. The new company has to sign all new airport agreements, a process which could take quite a while. The site says, “We are in discussions with multiple airports to re-introduce CLEAR,” but does not mention any airports by name. Company president Ken Cornick told The BAT that all three Bay Area airports are targeted to get the service back, but he could not offer any more specifics.

(This post appeared first in The BAT blog for Bay Area frequent travelers. Sign up for The BAT today!)

The site’s FAQs also state that the new company will honor previous members’ remaining membership terms as of June 2009. (For example, those who had three months left in their term will get three months free membership.)It also says that old card will still work…so don’t throw them away!

In what appears to a bungled first step, this week Alclear sent out a confusing and unwieldy email (two full pages, 1200 words) to former members. The gist of the tome was to ask those former members who DO NOT want back in to send the new company a letter (via snail mail) asking to “opt-out” of the new program and have their data destroyed. (Here’s the full email.) Cornick told The BAT he was regretful, but said that this communication procedure was mandated by courts and privacy lawyers and they had to maintain a hands off approach.

Anyway… I was a former member of CLEAR and must admit that the service paid for itself, but not because it actually saved me all that much time. As an elite level member of several frequent flyer programs, I already had access to shorter, faster security lines.

What CLEAR did was remove the uncertainty from the airport screening process- here at Bay Area airports as well as in other airports that don’t have special elite lines, or those that have unpredictable wait times. To me, as a frequent business traveler, that kind of peace of mind was worth $179.

So, frequent travelers, what do you think? Would you sign up again or for the first time?

Airport security full body scanners: up close and personal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzRKw567GVo

Remember last Christmas when the “underwear bomber” almost brought down a Delta jumbo-jet over Detroit?

That prompted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to grab a big pile of federal stimulus money for about 500 more full body scanners- you know, the ones that produce images like the one you see below.

There are currently 97 of the so-called “advanced imaging units” in use at airports across the country, but TSA says that number will soar to around 500 by the end of this year- with nearly 1000 in place by the end of 2011. That means frequent travelers should expect to encounter more of them, and soon.

Here’s what you need to know:

>WHERE ARE THEY? Just last week The BAT was invited down to San Jose Mineta International to check out the four new “backscatter” scanners that are currently being deployed at that airport’s Terminal A. (Four more units should be operational in SJC’s brand new Terminal B when it opens on June 30.) At San Francisco International, you’ll find full body scanners in the international terminal only. Oakland International expects installation of scanners to begin in July (Terminal 1) and August (Terminal 2).

>WHAT ARE THEY? There are two types of full body scanners: “Backscatter” scanners, which are in use at San Jose Airport, and older “millimeter wave” scanners which are in use at the international concourse at SFO. (See video for a look at the new generation units.)

>WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE? The newer backscatter machines look like two big blue boxes with a small open alley down the middle. (Millimeter wave units are rounder looking with the passenger surrounded by Plexiglas for the scan.)

>HOW DO I GET SCANNED? You walk into the scanners, turn sideways, place feet in square boxes marked on the rubber floor, hold hands up and wait for the TSA agent to tell you to exit. The whole process takes about five seconds. (See video for a real-life walk through.)

>WHAT IS DIFFERENT? As usual, you must remove shoes and belts and place them with carry-on luggage in bins. But when getting a full body scan, you must also remove your wallet or any other non-metallic objects from pockets.  (Wallet removal is not necessary with the standard magnetometers.)

>WHAT ABOUT RADIATION? The TSA says that the radiation emitted by these machines is equivalent to what you are exposed to during about two minutes aboard at aircraft at altitude, and far less than what the government permits for cell phones.

>WHAT DO SCANNERS SCAN? Body scanners only expose what’s between your skin and the clothes you are wearing. They are NOT like x-rays, which penetrate your skin and show internal organs and bone. (This is a plus for travelers with artificial joints or other metallic implants who’ve been slowed down and forced to submit to pat downs at traditional magnetometers.)

Dummy image provided by TSA

>WHO SEES MY PRIVATES? The TSA agent directing you into the full body scanner never sees your image.  This officer is wearing an earpiece and is in radio contact with another TSA officer viewing your image in a remote area. Once your image has been checked, this officer then tells the attending officer to allow you to pass, or to subject you to secondary screening if he/she sees any anomalies.  (See video for a behind the scenes look at the remote viewing room.)

>WHAT HAPPENS TO THE IMAGES? The TSA emphasizes that these images cannot be stored, saved or transmitted. In addition, they do no allow officers to bring cameras, cell phones or PDA’s in rooms where images are viewed. (Except for ours, of course, but that was just for the media…)

>WHAT ABOUT ADULT DIAPERS OR SANITARY PADS? Citing confidentiality, the TSA officer at San Jose Airport would not tell me how or if the machines can tell the difference between a sanitary pad and contraband placed in the crotch area.

>WHO IS PAYING FOR ALL THIS? You are. The units cost about $150,000 a pop, which means that the TSA spent nearly $75 million on this latest round of full body scanners. (Check out how the stock of OSI Systems, parent of scanner manufacturer Rapiscan, has soared since Christmas when this order was placed)

So, what do you think, folks? Is this an invasion of your privacy, or a necessary evil for safety’s sake?

I think I want an iPad

Okay. Yes. I think I want one. Like everyone else the country, I was mesmerized when Steve Jobs introduced us to the iPad earlier this year. But I’m not ready to pre-order one. And I’m not willing to go wait in line for one. But I’m still very interested in getting one. Maybe. Why? As a frequent air traveler, I really do think this gadget could change my traveling life. Here are five reasons why:

1) It’s small enough for me to use in a coach seat. I love in-flight Wi-Fi and am a heavy user but only when I’m upgraded to a roomy seat up front or on the exit row. Have you tried to work on your laptop in coach lately? Nearly impossible. Since the iPad is about as big as a magazine (and I could cradle it in my arm like a magazine), I see it as a salvation and escape from the horrors of a tight coach seat.

2) It’s got 10 hours of battery life according to Apple. Not all airlines that offer in-flight Wi-Fi offer in-flight power plugs. That’s a big problem for me because my MacBook only gets 2-3 hours of battery life when I’m using Wi-Fi. So I pay the $13 for a 5-6 hour cross country flight, but only get to use it for about half that time. The iPad could solve that dilemma for me.

3) It’s light. It’s a “reader.” It’s got iBooks and magazines. I’m always tossing a stack of magazines and the book I’m reading into my carry on bag. You know what? Those magazines are HEAVY. Sometimes the book I’m reading is so fat that I rip it in half so it will fit in my bag. With an iPad I may not have to do that anymore. With it, I’d have access to zillions of books and magazines in a slim 1.5 lb package. It would also work well on day trips when I fly out in the morning and fly back at night and all I really need to do is scan email. If I had to do any heavy typing, I’d probably haul along the laptop, too.

4) It’s not a phone, but it does have Wi-Fi, an earphone/microphone jack and a microphone, so I can use it to communicate via Skype and even participate in VOIP conferences on planes. (I know I know, you are not supposed to be able to do this, but let’s be honest here…. people are easily getting around VOIP blocks on planes with Wi-Fi and chatting away in flight. Sometimes flight attendants will shut them down. Sometimes they just ignore it.)

5) It’s not tied to AT&T, so when I go overseas, I could buy a prepaid SIM card and get online with another network without paying outrageous roaming fees. But that might be a while off. The iPad has what’s known as a “micro SIM card” about half the size of a normal SIM, which is so new that it might be hard to buy overseas. For now at least. Nonetheless, I really don’t need 3G access anyway, because I’ll still have Wi-Fi which does not require a SIM.

So, that’s a list of “pros.” Can you all help me with any “cons?” Should I take the leap and say YES, drop $500+ and check this thing out? Or should I wait? Please help push me off the fence.

Let me know what you all are thinking about the iPad in the comments box below.

More in-flight wi-fi coming to the Bay

Alaska Airlines 737. Photo: Keith Gaskell

I’m a huge fan of in-flight Wi-Fi, especially for flights longer than 90 minutes, so I’m excited to learn that two more airlines that serve the Bay Area in a big way are adding it. But not for a while.

First off, Alaska Air announced that it’s reached a deal with AirCell’s Gogo—the same provider used by Virgin America, United, Delta and others. But don’t hold your breath. The carrier still has to go through testing and certification with the FAA. It plans to outfit its fleet of new Boeing 737-800’s first, but has not officially set a target date for installation.

One downside: Much of Alaska Airlines’ flying is over water or desolate areas in Alaska, Canada and Mexico where the ground-based Gogo system is currently out of range of the network of radio towers it depends on. That means I’ll get a good Wi-Fi signal in-flight if I choose an Alaska Airlines flight from here to Seattle or Austin. (It adds a second daily “Nerd Bird” nonstop between San Jose and Austin next week.) But my Wi-Fi is not going to work on those new Alaska Air flights from here to Hawaii. And it will be spotty at best on the long coastal flights between Seattle and Anchorage.

Here’s where this story gets ironic. Southwest Airlines, which flies almost exclusively over land, has chosen another in-flight Wi-Fi provider called Row 44, which uses a satellite-based system that works over water and just about anywhere else.

At one time, Alaska Airlines seemed close to landing a deal with Row 44, which would make sense given its flying patterns. Instead, it’s gone with land-based Gogo. Why? “Ultimately Alaska Airlines decided to go with Aircell’s Gogo service because of its proven track record of deploying affordable inflight Wi-Fi services to travelers. Its lower-cost equipment, coupled with the ease and speed of installation and finally its system reliability, allow us  to rapidly deploy a desirable service to customers,” Alaska Airlines spokesperson Bobbie Egan told The BAT.

Anyway, Southwest plans to start outfitting its fleet of 540 Boeing 737’s this spring, and says Wi-Fi will be available fleet wide by late 2012.

Frequent travelers from the Bay Area are lucky… they have more in-flight Wi-Fi choices than nearly any other major city. (Except maybe Atlanta, where AirTran offers it on all flights from its hub there, and Delta’s got it on well over half its fleet.) From the Bay, all Virgin America flights offer it. Delta, United and American offer it on all flights between SFO and JFK, and on select flights to other cities. AirTran offers it on all flights between here and Atlanta and beyond.

Have you tried in-flight Wi-Fi? Are you as big a fan as I am? I can’t think of a better way to take advantage of a long flight. To me, it’s the greatest thing since the introduction of the in-flight movie. I don’t mind paying for it either. It definitely drives my airline choice, especially when planning flights longer than 90 minutes. Please leave your comments and experiences with in-flight Wi-Fi below.

Here’s an interesting video that explains how Gogo’s ground-based in-flight internet works:

San Jose Airport version 2.0: Wow! (video)

photo: Sherman Takata

(scroll down two view my two-minute video tour of the new terminals)

The sleek new look of Mineta-San Jose’s new airport terminal reminds me of my iPod. Or a space ship. Or a museum. In any case, it’s cutting edge design is now a much more befitting symbol of the Silicon Valley than the version 1.0, which sort of reminded me of my 60’s-era elementary school. (Take my two-minute video tour of SJC)

[The BAT is now on SFgate! Check it out here.]

Last month, the Silicon Valley Business Travel Association invited me to their monthly meeting, which was hosted by airport officials. The SVBTA is a 240+ person organization that represents the interests of corporate travel buyers in the South Bay region—to the tune of just over $1 billion per year. (see svbta.org)

San Jose airport authorities brought in SVBTA members for a look-see because they are eager to get support from the business community necessary to attract more flights and more airlines to its fancy new digs. Why? Because the new digs cost a whopping $1.3 billion, and that mortgage will be repaid in large part by the fees airlines pay to fly in and out of SJC. (The airport is self-sustaining and does not rely on local tax funds.)

Despite its location in largest city in the Bay Area and adjacency to some of the world’s largest tech companies that spend billions of dollars each year on travel, San Jose airport handles less than 20% of all commercial flights in the region.

(Take my two-minute video tour of SJC)

The tech bubble burst and recession have had a severe impact on the airport. For example, the number of daily flights at SJC has fallen from 232 in 2001 to just 125 in 2010—that’s a 42 percent decline. The number of destinations served nonstop has declined from 39 to 28 in the same period. International flights to Tokyo and Paris were scrubbed long ago. Passenger numbers have declined nearly 40 percent.

Airport authorities blame a lot of this decline on what they call the “Virgin Effect.” They say that when Virgin America cranked up operations at San Francisco International in 2007, airlines quickly “herded” around the new entrant, concentrating their Bay Area flying at SFO and slashing prices to protect their market share. That means SFO added 83 new flights since 2007 while OAK and SJC have experienced losses in flights and passenger numbers.

However, there are some notable new flights at SJC: Alaska starts flights to Maui and Kona in March; Horizon just added new flights to Mammoth Mountain and will add flights to Spokane next month. In May, JetBlue adds nonstops to Boston.

(Take my two-minute video tour of SJC)

Airport Primer:

If you find your way to San Jose for a flight in the near future, here’s what you need to know:

>All that’s left of the old structure is the current Terminal C, which will be demolished by this summer. Currently, if you fly into Terminal C (Alaska/Horizon, Delta, Frontier, US Airways), your bags will actually arrive at Terminal B due to construction. (This will change in June 2010 when all airlines move to A or B.)

>Terminal A (16 gates), originally opened in 1990 but has gotten a complete makeover, with a brand new ticketing area, concessions, and a big, bright new security screening area which opened last November. Terminal A handles American, Continental, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Mexicana and United flights.

>The bright new Terminal B Concourse (see video) partially opened last summer with six gates for Southwest Airlines flights. However, until Concourse B is complete this summer, Southwest passengers must enter security at Terminal A and take a rather long walk to their gates. (Take my two-minute video tour of SJC)

>Eventually, an entirely new south Concourse will rise from the site of the current Concourse C, but that depends on when  airport traffic levels recover enough to justify the expansion.

>A new consolidated car rental center and parking deck (the building with the exterior skin featuring giant hands, which can be seen for miles) should open in June.

For more information on airport changes, maps, and services, go to www.flysanjose.com.

(Take my two-minute video tour of SJC)

[The BAT is now on SFgate! Check it out here.]

A Gift From Google: Even More Free Wi-Fi

googleholiday1Travelers who pay anything for Wi-Fi over the holidays are paying too much…In addition to teaming up with Virgin America to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi, Google will pick up the Wi-Fi tab for travelers logging on at 47 airports across the country now through January 15.

Regrettably, the only Bay Area airport getting the Google freebie is San Jose. You’ll still pay at SFO (via T-Mobile), and you’ll still get it for free at OAK, but Google is not footing the bill there.  The list of participating airports is a mish-mash of some big majors (Baltimore, Boston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Seattle) and some tiny ones…such as Central Wisconsin, Kalamazoo or Spokane.

We asked our contacts at Google why SFO was not on the list and here’s what they said: “We worked with a variety of providers to make this happen and reached out to all top 50 airports (and the relevant providers) in the U.S. - unfortunately not every airport or provider chose to participate (for a variety of reasons) but we are always open to consider adding other airports or providers should they be interested.”

If you find yourself at one of the 47 airports listed below, just fire up the laptop and select the option for free Wi-Fi. NICE! No credit card or lengthy sign-in process required. This is a good thing because I think the long login process using services like T-Mobile dissuades use more than the nominal fee…just my two cents!

The catch: when you sign on you will be asked if you want to set Google as your home page or try it’s Chrome browser. Also, Google will have access to some aggregate, non-personally identifiable information from each airport.

Austin (AUS)

Baltimore (BWI)

Billings (BIL)

Boston (BOS)

Bozeman (BZN)

Buffalo (BUF)

Burbank (BUR)

Cent. Wisconsin (CWA)

Charlotte (CLT)

Des Moines (DSM)

El Paso (ELP)

Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Fort Myers/SW (RSW)

Greensboro (GSO)

Houston (HOU)

Houston Bush (IAH)

Indianapolis (IND)

Jacksonville (JIA)

Kalamazoo (AZO)

Las Vegas (LAS)

Louisville (SDF)

Madison (MSN)

Memphis (MEM)

Miami (MIA)

Milwaukee (MKE)

Monterey (MRY)

Nashville (BNA)

Newport News (PHF)

Norfolk (ORF)

Oklahoma City (OKC)

Omaha (OMA)

Orlando (MCO)

Panama City (PFN)

Pittsburgh (PIT)

Portland (PWM)

Sacramento (SMF)

San Antonio (SAT)

San Diego (SAN)

San Jose (SJC)

Seattle (SEA)

South Bend (SBN)

Spokane (GEG)

St. Louis (STL)

State College (SCE)

Toledo (TOL)

Traverse City (TVC)

West Palm Beach (PBI)

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