Modern passengers want their airports to be as tech-ed out as their homes and offices, so WiFi and outlets aren’t just nice perks, but requisites.
“Because of the proliferation of smartphones, there’s a need for power,” said Oswald. “There’s also an expectation to be able to connect to a signal upon touchdown.”
While WiFi is pervasive, many hubs, such as BWI Marshall and Philadelphia, are going one step better, eliminating the usage fee to provide free service. In addition, to accommodate the surge in laptop and tablet users, planners are installing workstations with tables, stools and outlets at the gates, as well as charging trees that can handle multiple branches of cords.
Sacramento’s Terminal B, for example, boasts 140 tables with USB ports and two-plug outlets; San Francisco counts 144 stations in its Terminal 2. Atlanta has built banks of recharging units — cubicle-style desks with power outlets — throughout the airport. Singapore provides locks and keys at its charging areas, so travelers can wander away without their valuables.
Even airlines are helping passengers power up. Southwest is populating its waiting areas with chairs with armrest outlets. Delta and Virgin America are also following the sit-and-charge trend.
In step with the times, airports are also employing technology as modern aids. At the three New York-area airports, hologram-esque avatars dole out basic traveler information (for tricky questions, best to ask a human). Dulles is using video analytics to provide up-to-date wait times at select security checkpoints. The times are displayed in the terminal and on the Airports Authority’s Web site.
At Delta concourses in JFK, LaGuardia, Minneapolis-St Paul and Toronto’s Pearson, visitors can sit down at an iPad kiosk and order food, check flights and otherwise distract themselves with online entertainment. The airline and its partner, OTG Management, also plan to roll out the Media Bar in Minneapolis. At this 21st-century newsstand, passengers can load up an iPad with movies, music and the like, then rent it for the duration of their flight. Once they reach their destination, however, they must give it back. The prepaid postage box is included.