ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

JetBlue flies in Apple Pay for in-flight purchases, seating upgrades

JetBlue Airways is bolstering its mobile offerings by enabling travelers to purchase snacks, beverages and upgrades to premium seats via Apple Pay, making it the first airline to roll out this feature and suggesting that more will quickly follow as mobile payments cement their status this year.

Beginning the week of Feb. 16, JetBlue’s customers can use their iPhone 6 and 6 plus smartphones to leverage Apple Pay’s technology on select flights. Rather than forcing consumers to rummage around small spaces for their credit card, they will now be able to purchase food and other amenities simply by tapping a button on their mobile devices, a convenience that is sure to resonate positively with weary travelers.

“The road to mass adoption of the mobile wallet will be paved by problem solving,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston, MA. “Use cases where a phone is always handy, but a wallet or purse are not are perfect opportunities to showcase the ‘power of the tap.’

“JetBlue and Apple likely know that in-flight Apple Pay will make payments easier for passengers, speed up the process for the flight crew, and gain both companies valuable first-to-market PR exposure,” he said. “Another very real upside of showcasing Apple Pay in the tight confines of a plane is that early adopters will be watched by all those nearby.

“The powerful ‘that was cool, how do I get that’ factor.”

Mobile payments in the sky
As more retailers begin to hop on the mobile payments bandwagon and integrate with solutions such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard, it make sense for airlines to offer the same level of convenience to consumers as well. While only select JetBlue flights will have the technology available this month, the airline claims that all of its routes will accept Apple Pay by June 2015.

Consumers that plan to purchase Apple’s smartwatch when it becomes available this April will also be able to use Apple Pay and make purchases directly from their wrists.

As Wi-Fi is not necessary for Apple Pay to function properly, there should be few issues in enabling the service on board.

Once customers have selected an item they would like to purchase, they can raise their Apple smartphone to a flight attendant’s airline-designated iPad Mini and press the Touch ID button to complete the immediate transaction. A receipt will be sent to the customer via email.

JetBlue plans to equip its onboard employees with 3,500 NFC-enabled iPad Minis, which will enable Apple Pay access and also house the Inflight Service Assistant mobile application. The app will allow crewmembers to identify travelers with birthdays and frequent fliers belonging to the airline’s Mosaic and JetBlue loyalty programs.

It will also offer the most up-to-date flight data, security information and airplane configuration.

Apple Pay’s capabilities
Apple Pay has become the go-to mobile payment solution since its 2014 launch, as many top retailers, brands and service providers continue to roll out the technology to consumers. JetBlue has not announced whether it will offer Android users a mobile payment solution this year.

JetBlue passengers will be able to access Apple Pay directly within the airline’s own mobile app beginning in 2015’s third quarter.

Ultimately, consumers are likely to respond positively to this offering, as often times, bags and personal items containing wallets and credit cards are stowed underneath seats or in the overhead bins. Apple Pay’s capabilities can also streamline work for flight attendants, as they will be able to spend less time helping a consumer complete a transaction.

Travelers can use Apple Pay to purchase JetBlue’s EatUp snack boxes, a la carte items, additional space for seating, premium beverages and various onboard amenities.

“If this works and customers start responding positively on social media, I would expect other airlines to follow suit,” Mr. Kerr said. “Increasingly, airlines make extra revenue on add-ons and Apple Pay’s ease of use might add significantly to their bottom lines.

“For Apple, the obvious upside is that you need an iPhone 6 to participate, so this application could push those with older models to upgrade.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York