Getting connected begins before you leave your home city. Many airports are installing new monitoring systems, stringing high-speed fiber-optic cable or bringing in Internet access booths to ensure passengers never miss a message--whether it's a voice mail, fax or e-mail.
- Portland's Multilingual Kiosks
Oregon's Portland Airport has introduced electronic kiosks that offer data about ground transportation, tourism and the airport itself. The interactive booths are the first in the country to present the information in six languages so travelers from around the world can get good, clear directions when they land. While these free kiosks have since spread to other airports in the country, Portland continues to push the technology envelope--it's also on the cutting edge of offering real-time flight data. Although it's not the first airport to give travelers more up-to-date departure and arrival information, Portland was an innovator in making that information available on its Web site
- Better Flight Information In Baltimore
The leader in flight information systems, actually, is thought to be Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Airport, which recently installed a state-of-the-art flight information and baggage display system. The technology taps into data provided by the airlines, giving passengers the latest arrival and departure times. Previously, the numbers displayed on the airport's television screens were nothing more than airlines' standard schedules with a time-delayed update. Now the information is linked to actual flights taking off and landing, as well as to the baggage claims in process. BWI's recently opened international terminal (the International Pier) is also decidedly high-tech. Thanks to a new fiber-optic network, you can get connected to your baggage and flight information a little faster.
- Norfolk's Internet Booths
Virginia's Norfolk International Airport was the first facility in the country to bring in a CyberFlyer booth (below, left), manufactured by Denver-based CyberFlyer Technologies. The stainless-steel units help travelers plug into the World Wide Web through a lightning-fast connection, check e-mail, and access special travel information, such as flight guides. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plans to install similar kiosks with Internet access at the Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark airports. Eventually, Internet kiosks at airports could become as common as phone booths.
- Just The Fax At O'Hare
At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the nation's busiest, more travelers are getting wired with the help of airline clubs. The private clubs offer standard analog phone jacks through which travelers can connect to the Internet, a convenience many business travelers have come to depend on. But O'Hare went a step further when it began offering high-speed Internet access and fax stations in the airport. Since airline clubs are off limits to passengers without memberships, the new services are finding many new customers. O'Hare's Monique Bond says she has noticed an increase in passenger demand for connectivity, "so we are giving passengers more services, more technology."
Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.