JetBlue Airways said Monday that it plans to be the first major domestic carrier in the U.S. to accept the Apple Pay mobile payment service during its flights. Any passenger with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and soon Apple Watch can use Apple Pay to make premium purchases on such items as snack boxes, beverages, onboard amenities and even more spacious seating.
Apple Pay will begin appearing on select JetBlue transcontinental flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco starting in mid-February. The service will be rolled out to additional flights beginning in March, and all JetBlue flights are scheduled to accept Apple Pay by June.
"Customers want an easy and fast transaction when they decide to make an on-board purchase so that they can get back to enjoying their flight," stated Marty St. George, senior vice president, commercial, JetBlue.
What Can I Bring You?
To enable Apple Pay in the air, more than 3,500 JetBlue inflight crew members will use iPad minis and NFC-enabled cases. In addition, each iPad mini will be loaded with a custom-designed iOS app called the Inflight Service Assistant. That app will give inflight crew members access to customer manifest and flight data.
The iOS Inflight Service Assistant app also lets crew members identify JetBlue loyalty members by their names if necessary. The app will also offer flight information, aircraft configuration and safety data, and the means to process traditional credit card purchases.
This is only the latest touch of mobile technology JetBlue is offering to passengers. The airline recently launched automatic check-in, eliminating the need for qualified customers to ever have to check in for their flights. In 2013, JetBlue provided iPads to all of its pilots, offering them access to real-time weather and updated safely and flight documents.
The skyward move by Apple Pay is crucial to Apple as it tries to expand mobile payments beyond brick-and-mortar merchants. USA Technologies said recently that it would make Apple Pay available at about 200,000 self-service locations, including airports as well as commercial laundry machines, parking kiosks, and vending machines in businesses and schools.
More To Come
So far about 750 banks and credit unions have signed on to bring Apple Pay to their customers. Since the service was introduced last fall, Apple Pay has made up more than two out of every three dollars spent on contactless payments across the major U.S. credit card networks, according to Apple. Whole Foods Market, to name one retailer, has seen mobile payments increase by more than 400 percent.
As part of the transition, JetBlue will swap out older payment terminals for the FCC-approved, Apple Pay-compatible NFC cases. The new iPad terminals also support plastic credit card payments. Later in the third quarter, JetBlue’s own mobile app will support Apple Pay as well. JetBlue said Monday that it will eventually support other contactless payment systems, such as Google Wallet.
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