No. 6: Oakland International Airport (OAK)
On the plus side, Oakland International Airport offers ample outlets at the gate areas and a healthy number of USB outlets. On the negative side, you'll find a proper work desk only every five gates, on average. Southwest has helped matters considerably by installing numerous charging stations -- a small wooden table with a two-plug electrical outlet and two easy-to-access USB ports between pairs of large, comfortable chairs.
If you're lucky to find one of these between-chair stations, you can sit in relative comfort with your device charging beside you, though working on your laptop while it's parked on the wooden table can be a bit awkward. For travelers who can't find a comfy chair to sit in, Southwest has installed numerous "power stations" -- tall walk-up tables usually studded with five outlets each.
No. 7: New York LaGuardia (LGA)
Like the Big Apple's other big airport, JFK, LaGuardia is an older facility that has become decidedly more tech-friendly in some respects over the past few years. The number of available outlets per gate now exceeds 7.2, and the airport's Wi-Fi service averages a workable 2.5Mbps on average throughout the airport.
Perhaps the most promising tech development at LaGuardia is the work of Delta and its restaurant management partner OTG. They've installed 70 iPad kiosks in Terminal D. As at JFK, travelers can sit at a high table (with outlets) and use the embedded iPad to access restaurant menus, flight updates, weather conditions, and online entertainment while waiting for their flights. The iPads at LaGuardia have been so popular that Delta and OTG plan to install an additional 400 of the devices by early 2012, OTG's Aziz says.
No. 8: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
Like many other airports around the country, Salt Lake City International has been adding electrical outlets to its gates over the past few years -- and today the gates at SLC provide an average of 5.4 outlets and 3.0 USB ports each. We counted 23 workspaces (19 desks and 4 cubicles) scattered around the airport, most of which included a power outlet. We didn't spot any Internet kiosks or business centers, however.
The Wi-Fi service at SLC is free, and it's faster than the 40-airport average. In our tests, the Salt Lake City airport's average Wi-Fi speed was around 2Mbps for downloads airport-wide, and 2.2Mbps for uploads. As for the cellular service, Verizon LTE pumped out average download speeds of 4.3Mbps, while Sprint averaged 2.2Mbps, and AT&T and T-Mobile each averaged 1.3Mbps.
No. 9: Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
BWI bills itself as the "easy come, easy go" airport, since it offers a relatively stress-free commute for laptop and smartphone users who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia.
Baltimore-Washington Airport averages more than 7.3 outlets per gate; and many of the gates feature comfortable seats and work stations, with access to power outlets and USB ports. These come courtesy of Southwest, which operates in 26 gates in the A and B terminals, accounting for 70 percent of traffic through the airport.
But BWI's greatest strength is its Wi-Fi service. We measured an average download speed of 6.5Mbps and an average upload speed of 2.5Mbps in our tests throughout the airport's five concourses; those numbers make BWI's Wi-Fi service the fifth-fastest among major U.S. airports. The airport currently offers a fee-based service, but like many other airports, it is looking into the possibility of introducing a free service sometime next year.
Cellular service at Baltimore-Washington wasn't bad either. In our tests, the average download speeds for the four major carriers were 4Mbps for Verizon, 3.22Mbps for AT&T, 3Mbps for T-Mobile, and 1.76Mbps for Sprint.