In the United States each day, about 2 million people travel by air. On average, those travelers are in their late 40s and earn between $60,000 and $85,000 annually. And those 2 million passengers are evolving into an increasingly digitally enabled group. One-quarter of air travelers use Web–based resources (travel websites, social media, online reviews, etc.) to plan their travel, 90 percent report the Web being a “necessary tool” for booking travel and a whopping 76 percent carry a smartphone on them when they fly the friendly skies. (OK, so who thought that number might be higher?)
Given the highly digitized nature of the airline consumer it is unsurprising that mobile payments are starting to look more and more appealing to airlines. What is somewhat surprising is how quickly JetBlue has gotten out of the gate with Apple Pay, which it announced earlier this month it would begin accepting on select flights and in its mobile app.
“It’s part of our culture to use emerging technology to evolve the JetBlue experience. We have always prided ourselves on being an innovative airline from day one. It started fifteen years ago when we started service as the only carrier to offer LiveTV. That innovation has continued over the years as we have introduces new technology to improve the customer experience. Apple Pay is no exception,” JetBlue noted in an interview with PYMNTS.
Going forward, JetBlue passengers flying from LA or San Francisco to New York (or the other way around) will be able to use their iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to buy beverages, snacks, headphones and all the other wonders that in-flight commerce has to offer.
With their latest announcement, JetBlue is the first airline to accept Apple Pay since its introduction to the wider world last September, but it certainly won’t be the last.
In a recent post on its website, Delta Air Lines noted its intention to rollout Apple Pay by the end of the year.
“At the Delta Community, it is our goal to provide our members with convenient, secure payment tools like Apple Pay. We are actively working to provide this new payment tool and implement the infrastructure required to support this service. The implementation timeline will take several months, but we hope to have Apple Pay available by the fall of 2015,” the post read.
United Airlines also recently announced plans to equip its flight attendants with Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones.
“We are thrilled to make this investment in our flight attendants,” said Sam Risoli, United’s SVP of inflight services. “iPhone 6 Plus will enable them to deliver an even higher level of flyer-friendly service and will offer our flight attendants simple, one-touch access to valuable work information, enabling them to better serve our customers.”
And, as it turns out, United’s flight attendants will not be the only airline employees with new Apple products to aid in their productivity. JetBlue will begin deploying iPad Minis equipped with special near-field communication (NFC) cases to 3,500 of its inflight crewmembers. Those custom iPads will also have a specially built iOS app called Inflight Service Assistant, which can be used to access passenger manifest and flight data.
JetBlue moved forward more quickly however, noting in their conversation with PYMNTS that bringing a better experience to their customers as quickly as possible is their corporate priority.
“The sky is definitely not the limit when it comes to mobile payments with Apple Pay,” Marty St. George, JetBlue senior vice president, said in a statement. “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."
Which, according to the airline, consumer are doing. So far the early feedback on the program has been positive.
“Prior to introducing Apple Pay, customers told us they wanted simple, cashless payment options for purchases on board. We are seeing early success and think it is a great option that customers will love."
However, JetBlue may soon go bigger with mobile payment so that passengers who aren’t packing iPhone 6’s (or Apple Watches in a few months) can still enjoy all the benefits of mobile payments. JetBlue offered no specific comments on their future plans, but sources within the company confirmed that Apple Pay is only the beginning of their corporate experiments with mobile payments.