Apple Pay is poised to take off — quite literally.
Starting next week, passengers on select JetBlue Airways flights can use Apple Pay on their iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets to buy food, drinks and certain onboard amenities when the plane reaches cruising altitude. You’ll be able to upgrade to available premium seats, too.
JetBlue is the first airline to accept Apple Pay at 35,000 feet. It almost certainly won’t be the last. “Somebody else doing it always puts pressure on the other guy,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services.
Paying for stuff on planes can be difficult for the passenger sitting in a cramped seat who is trying to pull a credit card out of their wallet or fumbling with a purse that’s under the seat or in an overhead bin. Apple Pay promises an easier experience.
Apple Pay first got off the ground in September, when Apple introduced the mobile payments system as a banner feature on the latest iPhone.
NEXT: PAY WITH APPLE WATCH
In April, when the Apple Watch goes on sale, JetBlue travelers wearing the smartwatch will also be able to make payments from their wrists.
“The sky is definitely not the limit when it comes to mobile payments with Apple Pay,” says Marty St. George, a senior vice president at JetBlue.
The carrier is swapping older mobile payment terminals for specially outfitted iPad Minis with NFC-capable cases that are being issued to more than 3,500 inflight crewmembers. The Federal Aviation Administration had to approve the new iPads before they could be used onboard.
The iPads can also accept conventional plastic credit cards to accommodate passengers without the latest iPhone or smartwatch.
JetBlue’s crew is getting video training on the new system. The iPads include an Inflight Service Assistant app with information that helps flight attendants identify frequent fliers or passengers with a birthday. With the FAA’s blessing, the iPads will include the entire inflight manual.
Starting in the third quarter, passengers will be able to use Apple Pay to complete purchases through JetBlue’s own mobile app.
HOW IT WORKS
I was treated to an exclusive pre-launch demonstration on a JetBlue flight before it left JFK Airport in New York for Los Angeles. The process works similarly to the way you might buy stuff in stores using Apple Pay. After ordering a salad, I raised the iPhone right up next to a flight attendant’s iPad Mini while pressing my thumb against the secure TouchID fingerprint button on the phone. The transaction, via an American Express card in this case, almost immediately registered. You don’t get a paper receipt — one will be e-mailed.
Wi-Fi is not required to use Apple Pay in the air, though wireless Internet is available on the plane.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Edward C. Baig