Nearly two years since promising it was on the way, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is now offering free Wi-Fi service with the click of a single button across its entire 6.8-million square-foot footprint.
The move to cut the $4.95 per day charge, while slow to roll out, was part of the airport’s pledge to promote international business and stem a wave of negative customer feedback about Internet fees over the years.
“The lack of free Wi-Fi put our airport at a competitive disadvantage and it was the No. 1 complaint we would receive from our customers,” Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Miguel Southwell said in a news release. “We want to exceed customer expectations.”
Speaking to the Boston Globe a few days after the announcement, Mr. Southwell framed the Wi-Fi offering as an investment recruitment tool, saying the airport should be “a catalyst for economic development” beyond its basic responsibilities.
The Atlanta City Council funded the project’s design, equipment and installation, which took 30 days at a cost of $5.6 million, which officials believe will be recovered by increased spending at airport restaurants and shops.
“Providing free Wi-Fi in the world’s busiest airport is essential and will provide an improved level of convenience for our visitors,” said Michael Dogan, Atlanta’s interim chief informatoin officer, in the release. “Free Wi-Fi has emerged as a necessary asset in today’s airports, and this announcement simply enhances one of the most important and highly utilized traveling amenities.”
The Globe cited Boingo Wireless in saying that only 12 of the top 30 busiest airports in the U.S. offer all-free Wi-Fi, with some offering tiered plans that allow business travelers to access paid networks that aren’t bogged down with users.