In the first deal of its kind, JetBlue will soon begin accepting Apple Pay as a form of in-flight payment.
The first flights to enjoy the mobile payment option will be non-stops between New York's JFK and San Francisco SFO/Los Angeles LAX.
The airline will not only take Apple Pay for food and beverage purchases, but also for on-board upgrades. The ease of purchasing premium seats via a smartphone could very well increase impulse upgrades — a fantastic proposition for the airline looking to increase revenue throughout a flight's cycle.
In order to process these payments, the airline has made a massive investment to replace its traditional card readers with an iPad mini. JetBlue will deploy the tablets, encased with NFC readers, to its 3,5000 crewmembers.
The technology will be available for onboard purchases starting in just a couple of weeks. For purchases within its iOS app, the airline promises a full integration later this year.
This follows on from other Apple Pay hospitality tie-ups within apps, such as OpenTable, HotelTonight, Priceline, Groupon, Lyft, Sosh, Stayful, and Uber. JetBlue's in-cabin rollout marks the first time a hospitality brand has used Apple Pay in a point-of-sale fashion outside of a mobile app.
In addition to Apple Pay, the airline is releasing a crewmember-facing app called the Inflight Service Assistant, which aims to increase the flow of information down to the frontline cabin attendants.
The information included within the app includes the passenger manifest and flight data (such as flight time and aircraft specifics) to improve overall communication. Passengers who are members of the TrueBlue and Mosaic loyalty programs will also be easily identified via the app, so the flight crew can offer customized greetings, such as for birthdays.
Joanna Geraghty, VP of JetBlue's customer experience, says this is part of the airline's push to marry technology and service:
JetBlue has always stood out because our crewmembers care about our customers. By giving crewmembers thoughtful ways to use technology, we can support an even more personalized onboard experience with a perfect partnership of high tech and high touch.
The iPad mini will also eventually be used to replace the in-flight paper manuals for flight attendants aboard JetBlue airplanes.
USA Today had an onboard look at the iPad mini setup used to take the payments onboard, which is shared below.