By Rebecca Dolan
As if you didn't already hate flying enough, having to pay for wireless Internet access at the airport just makes it worse. You might think in this day and age when major airports feature everything from spa services to upscale restaurants, a basic amenity such as free Wi-Fi would be a given. Unfortunately, there are still a few holdouts.
We took a look at the Federal Aviation Administration's list of the 35 busiest commercial airports in the U.S., and found that eight of them still require passengers to pay for Wi-Fi access. The offenders? Pretty big-time hubs: Chicago O'Hare International (#3), John F. Kennedy International (#12), Miami International (#15), Newark Liberty International (#17), LaGuardia Airport (#18), Honolulu International (#23), Chicago Midway International (#28) and Lambert-St. Louis International (#33).
In all three New York City-area airports, the price to access the network is $4.95 per hour and $7.95 per day. (The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently announced plans to offer 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi starting later in 2014.) In Miami, it's $4.95 for the first 30 minutes and $7.95 per day. Honolulu charges $6.95 for two hours and $8.95 per day. St. Louis charges by the day only ($7.95), as do Midway and O'Hare ($6.95).
Chicago, St. Louis and Miami do show bored passengers some mercy, though. Each of these airports has a selection of websites (think news-, airport- and tourism-related) that users can access for free. So, if you want to know what to eat in Chicago, you're covered.
The good news is, if you're flying through multiple airports that contract with Boingo as their Wi-Fi hotspot provider (as most of these do), you'll only have to create one account. Use Boingo AsYouGo, the company's pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi plan for airports, as well as selected convention centers, shopping malls and stadiums, to sign up. You will, however, have to pay for access at each airport, even if you pay for a whole day. More frequent fliers may want to bypass this altogether by subscribing to a Boingo unlimited Wi-Fi plan, which offers access to more than a million hotspots worldwide - not just in airports. Plans start at $4.98 per month.
Now, if the free Wi-Fi connection is too sluggish and you want to pay for faster Internet access, you can do that at a handful of airports. Some hubs, such as Los Angeles International and Minneapolis-St. Paul International, offer higher-speed access for a fee. Minneapolis-St. Paul charges $2.95 per day for its premium Wi-Fi service; Los Angeles, $4.95 for an hour or $7.95 for 24 hours.
For things you can get for free while traveling, check out these awesome travel freebies.
(For more on this and similar travel topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
This column was printed in the October 5, 2014 - October 18, 2014 edition.