Search engine giant Google announced that it is working with airports across the U.S. as well as Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, Airport Marketing Income and others to provide free Wi-Fi as "a holiday gift" to travelers now through Jan. 15, 2010. The Wi-Fi accessibility is currently available in 47 airports, including those in Las Vegas, San Jose, Boston, Baltimore, Burbank, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Louis and Charlotte. Additionally, as a result of this project, Burbank and Seattle airports will begin offering airport-wide free Wi-Fi indefinitely.
"We know that this is a very hectic travel season for people, and we hope that free Wi-Fi will make both traveling and connecting with friends and family a little bit easier," said Google's vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer. "We're very happy to extend our Holiday Wi-Fi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months."
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates, over 100 million people will pass through the participating airports between now and January 15, 2010, Google noted, making it one of the heaviest travel seasons of the year. Bad weather and heavy passenger loads can often cause delays of up to 70 minutes, leaving travelers with plenty of time on their hands after passing through security. A recent study conducted by the Wi-Fi Alliance reported that 50 percent of business travelers take red-eye flights in order to be "reachable" during business hours, and an overwhelming 82 percent said that being connected through Wi-Fi would help solve that problem.
"Google gets this year's Wi-Fi Santa award for sponsoring complimentary access in dozens of airports, both to the traveler's and airport's benefit," said president and CEO of Boingo Wireless Dave Hagan. "In addition to the obvious bonus holiday travelers will enjoy, sponsored access will increase overall Wi-Fi usage in the participating airports and help supplement the airport's increasingly important non-airline incremental revenue."
As another way to pass on the spirit of the season, once travelers log on to networks in any of the participating airports, they will have the option make a donation to Engineers Without Borders, the One Economy Corporation or the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. Google said it will match the donations made across all the networks up to $250,000, and the airport network that generates the highest amount per passenger by January 1, 2010 will receive $15,000 to donate to the local nonprofit of their choice.
As mentioned, the Wi-Fi access will include 47 airports that together handle over 500 million passengers each year, or about 35 percent of the total number of annual passengers in the U.S. In October, Google and Virgin America announced that, during this same period, all passengers on Virgin America would have free in-flight Wi-Fi. Five of the airports participating in the program are also Virgin America destinations: Boston, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego and Virgin America's newest destination launching November 18, Fort Lauderdale.