Rolling out Apple Pay across an entire fleet probably isn't cheap, but letting travelers use their iPhones to make in-flight purchases and bookings when they're already in-hand makes more sense than asking them to fish through bags to dig out a credit card.
Nearly a year after the launch of Apple Pay, Apple’s digital wallet, it’s still possible to count on one hand–make that two fingers–the number of airlines who let travelers use the service while onboard or while booking via mobile devices.
JetBlue, and recently Emirates, are the lone sheep amid a sky of global airlines who haven’t signaled any embrace of the mobile payments system that securely stores credit card information without the need for travelers to have their credit cards. So far Apple Pay is only available in the U.S. and UK.
Apple Pay was only streamlined across all JetBlue flights in June after rolling out on select transcontinental flights from New York City to Los Angeles and San Francisco in February. It’s available on JetBlue’s Apple Watch app and will go live on the airline’s iOS app later this year to let travelers use Apple Pay for bookings.
“We’ve had a great response to the contact-less payment feature,” said Tamara Young, a spokesperson for JetBlue. “As the travel experience becomes more transitional, we will offer options that provide our customers with effective and efficient transactions in all phases of the travel ribbon.”
“Besides customers using Apple Pay for onboard food purchases, we have also seen a recent increase in the purchase of items including our new headphones and pillow and blankets.”
Last month Emirates announced it’ll let travelers use Apple Pay to book flights via the carrier’s iOS app, but it hasn’t made it onboard the carrier’s fleet yet for in-flight purchases.
“The implementation hasn’t been easy as we have a global payment gateway that needs to be compliant with different regulations depending on the operating market,” said an Emirates spokesperson. “We serve customers from all around the world so we’ve also faced challenges regarding the ability to serve multiple currencies.”
Purchasing Emirates tickets via Apple Pay, however, still allows travelers to receive all of the rewards and benefits offered by credit and debit cards.
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Photo credit: JetBlue is the only U.S. airline and only one of two airlines in the world to embrace Apple Pay so far. JetBlue