Best & worst hotels, airports for Wi-Fi

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Free wi-fi is great, but you usually end up getting what you pay for, right? Well, maybe not, according to an interesting study by a Wefi, a mobile network management company.

According to the study, the hotel chains that offer the fastest wi-fi are in the budget and mid-priced category, with brands like Red Roof, Holiday Inn and Best Western leading the pack. These are also the brands that usually offer free wi-fi.

Those that offer the slowest wifi are primarily upscale or luxury brands. Hyatt, Marriott, Westin and Four Seasons rank near the bottom. Many of these upscale brands charge for wi-fi. Hilton appears to be the upscale chain with the fastest wifi.

I should point out that this is not an exhaustive study– several major brands do not appear at all. A Wefi spokesperson told TravelSkills that they studied wi-fi speeds at a minimum of 10 hotel locations per chain to determine the overall score– not a huge sample by any means. The following metrics are based on a 45-day average of Wi-Fi speeds for each location starting from April 1 to June 15, 2014.

Hotels Avg Bandwidth
Red Roof Inns  4.34
Sleep Inn  4.14
Ramada  3.69
Holiday Inn  3.68
Best Western  3.66
Aloft Hotels  3.42
Studio 6  3.22
Hilton  3.17
Quality Inns  3.15
4 Points by Sheraton  3.04
Comfort Inn  2.99
Candlewood Suites  2.69
Radisson  2.43
Clarion  2.42
Doubletree  2.32
Intercontinental  2.31
Wyndham hotels  2.05
Crowne plaza  1.92
Global hyatt  1.90
Marriott  1.70
Westin Hotels  1.65
Four Seasons  1.34
Motel 6  1.26
Airports avg bandwidth (mbps)
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, MI  4.63
Denver International Airport, CO  4.33
Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International FL  3.74
Los Angeles International Airport, CA  3.29
Washington Dulles International Airport, VA  3.09
Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, TX  2.88
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, WA  2.84
Houston George Bush Intercontinental TX  2.71
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ  2.68
LaGuardia Airport, NY  2.67
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International GA  2.66
Boston Logan International Airport, MA  2.51
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport  2.45
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport  2.41
San Francisco International Airport, CA  2.29
Nashville International Airport, TN  2.14
Baltimore-Washington International Airport  2.01
Chicago O’Hare International Airport, IL  1.88
John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY  1.79
Raleigh-Durham International Airport, NC  1.69
Orlando International Airport, FL  1.54
Miami International Airport, FL  1.37
Philadelphia International Airport, PA  1.18
Sacramento International Airport, CA  0.82

These results are interesting to me because, while I’m always grateful for the free wi-fi at less expensive hotel chains, I do usually feel like I’m getting what I pay for with slow (and sometimes no) speeds and balky connections. When faced with a free, but slow hotel room connection, I frequently think, “Jeez, I’d gladly pay for a better or faster connection.”

Airports are a mixed bag. Over the last year or so, I’ve been very impressed with the speed of the wi-fi at my home base airport at SFO, but it only ranks middle of the pack here. I’m glad to see Detroit at the top of the list– despite the city’s woes, its airport is awesome– one of the best hubs in the US as far as I’m concerned. As we reported here, Atlanta recently rolled out a brand new, reportedly very fast and free wi-fi network.

What about you? Do these findings mirror what you’ve found on the road? Please leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

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  • Mike G

    Agreed, I have consistently had good luck with HGI and Hampton Inn properties. On the other hand, Hilton branded hotels have been pretty inconsistent with some having wonderful connections and others having connections that seemed to strain to do anything more than receiving or sending email without attachments.

  • Mike G

    I realize that it is difficult (if not practically impossible) to test a wide variety of individual locations (as opposed to do a chain-wide test) but I would be interested in seeing something along those lines. I find that Hilton properties (and I mean just Hilton, I’m not including Doubletree, HGI, Hampton, etc.) are wildly inconsistent. I have had wonderful internet connections at some Hilton properties and horrible connections at others. Having some sort of list that shows individual hotel’s WiFi connection speed would be helpful when I’m trying to figure out where to stay for a deposition that is going to take 3 weeks or for a trial that will take as much as 2-3 months.

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Sith. I think you’d be surprised how many folks SAY they want to be off the grid while on vacation vs how many actually stay off their devices! :) — chris

  • SithTraveler

    Interesting. I’d posit that the higher-end chains are typically “vacation” destinations, whereas the others are “business” destinations. In that light, it makes some sense with regards to the speeds available. After all, if vacationing, I’d want to be “off grid” as much as possible. Conversely, if on business travel, I’d want as fast a connection as possible.

  • SFTed

    For most business travelers, Hilton Garden Inn and Marriott Courtyard are fairly standard. It would be nice to see how the bandwidth averages for these properties broken out from their parent hotel groups.

  • SHINSF

    The Best Western Inn in Healdsburg, CA has the slowest wi-fi connection of any hotel or airport in the US – that is when it’s actually allowing a connection, which occurs about 1 try out of 5.

  • Lance J Richards

    How about a survey of the best and worst airport hotels for wifi???
    I’ll start:
    the worst? Bangkok Novotel
    the best? Renaissance LAX

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Brian! I wonder if that fancy new Terminal 2 West (United/Delta) at SAN has faster wi-fi? I hope so! — chris

  • Brian

    SAN’s WiFi (specifically, the SWA terminal) is the slowest I’ve experienced. But it appears they weren’t tested.