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Top airports and airlines for tech travelers

In a first-ever ranking of how well domestic airports and airlines cater to mobile, connected travelers, PCWorldcanvassed 3,300 gates at the 40 busiest U.S. airports and rated major carriers on their efforts in the terminals, in the air and online.

The winners: Dallas/Fort Worth and Delta (which, along with eBay, is offering passengers 30 minutes of free in-flight Wi-Fi through Jan. 12).

Though DFW doesn’t have the most outlets and work desks, let alone the fastest (or free) Wi-Fi, “no other airport achieves such consistently high scores across so many categories,” notes PCWorld. It has also benefited from such partners as Samsung, “whose 64 charging stations, seven ‘mobile travel lounges,’ work stations with power outlets, and large flat-screen TVs are ubiquitous in the airport.”

Tech-friendly Delta, the publication says, has upgraded about 20 of its airports with branded charging stations, and its iPad installations at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia and (soon) at Minneapolis-St. Paul International “are truly impressive.”

All of Delta’s large domestic aircraft offer onboard Gogo Wi-Fi, and the carrier is looking for a way to outfit its 250 international aircraft with Wi-Fi, since Gogo’s ground-based service can’t reach beyond 100 miles offshore.

Aside from such standard features as flight updates, mobile boarding passes and seat maps, Delta’s Fly Delta mobile app “offers capabilities that most other airline apps don’t, such as the ability to track your checked bag by scanning your bag tag with your smartphone,” says PCWorld. The carrier also wins kudos for the “strongest prescence of any airline on both Twitter and Facebook.”

The worst -ranked airport for tech-oriented passengers? Denver International, which earned low marks for a lack of USB ports and slow Wi-Fi and cellular service in relation to other airports.

Overall, notes PCWorld, the number of electrical outlets available in the nation’s busiest airports – an average of 5.5 per gate – remains “woefully inadequate. Take into account that mobile devices have notoriously short battery lives, and no wonder you see people walking forlornly through the gate areas looking for an outlet – any outlet – to plug in to.”

Only about a third of planes in fleets of the 10 U.S. carriers are equipped with onboard Wi-Fi, it adds, and though more airports are offering gratis Wi-Fi, fast, free service is still “the exception and not the rule.”

Readers, what are your picks for most tech-oriented airport and airline, and why?

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