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Airports get C for tech traveler amenities

By Kiran Khalid, CNN
updated 4:33 PM EST, Fri December 16, 2011
Airports underdeliver to tech-savvy travelers, according to a PCWorld study.
Airports underdeliver to tech-savvy travelers, according to a PCWorld study.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • PCWorld study says only a fraction of U.S. airports fulfill electronic needs
  • The airports offer an average of 5.5 outlets per gate
  • PCWorld researchers visited 3,300 gates, testing outlets, ports and charging stations

(CNN) -- Are airports equipped for the crunch of tech-savvy holiday travelers? Not really, according to a report from the folks at PCWorld, who say that only a fraction of the country's airports are ready for takeoff when it comes to meeting passengers' electronic needs.

"Overall, I would give the top 40 airports a C grade for accommodating tech-savvy travelers," senior editor Mark Sullivan said. "The airports, together, offer an average of 5.5 outlets per gate. When you consider that most people are now carrying devices that need wireless service and battery charge-up, this number is woefully low."

Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) tops the magazine's "20 Best U.S. Airports for Tech Travelers" list released this week. The airport got decent marks across all categories, and its Wi-Fi and cellular signals helped it edge out the competition.

Following close behind is New York's JFK International (JFK), whose $800 million Terminal 5 wowed researchers. Delta Air Lines' terminals 2 and 3 at JFK also impressed them, with restaurants that had iPad kiosks to take your order in the gate area and have your food delivered there. Overall, the airport offered more electrical outlets than any other and "decent" free Wi-Fi.

The country's busiest airport, Georgia's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), came in third place. The electrical outlets available to passengers totaled 1,377, an average 8.1 per gate.

No. 20 on the "best" list? Oregon's Portland International, which managed to rate in all categories despite what PCWorld called its "painfully slow (but free) airport Wi-Fi."

PCWorld researchers visited 3,300 gates, testing more than 17,000 electrical outlets, 5,000 USB ports and 1,350 charging stations during an audit of the 40 busiest airports in the United States. Auditors also conducted hundreds of tests of airport Wi-Fi and cellular broadband service.

Among the airports that didn't make the top 20 list, Denver International came in last, at No. 40.

The exhaustive study took nearly four months and examined the features, or lack thereof, that were common frustrations for tech-savvy travelers. These included the average number of electrical outlets, USB ports, charging stations, Internet kiosks and workspace available per airline gate.

"I believe this feature to be the largest and most complex undertaking in the magazine's 28-year history," senior editor Mark Sullivan said.

The bottom line? Even among the winners, PCWorld┬╣s researchers concluded that there's plenty of room for improvement.

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