Apple Pay heads aloft with JetBlue for in-flight purchases

As Apple strives to expand its mobile payments system to more businesses, JetBlue becomes the first airline to accept Apple Pay, says USA Today.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Apple Pay is now booked aboard JetBlue flights. JetBlue

Apple Pay is trying to spread its wings by serving as a payment option on JetBlue flights.

Beginning in mid-February, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners who fly JetBlue will be able to use Apple Pay to buy items in flight, including food, drinks and even upgrades to better seats. To accept your Apple Pay payments, the airline is getting rid of its older payment terminals in exchange for NFC-enabled iPad Minis. The Minis can also accept traditional credit cards for passengers who don't have Apple Pay.

Each iPad Mini will be loaded with an iOS app called the Inflight Service Assistant, according to JetBlue. That app will give crewmembers access to information both on passengers and the flight.

Rolled out last October, Apple Pay is the company's first foray into the world of contactless payments. Using an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, which are equipped with the necessary near-field communications technology, users can pay for an item on the go simply by waving their iPhone near an NFC-enabled payment terminal or device. But the challenge for Apple is to expand Apple Pay to enough vendors so it becomes a standard not just among iPhone 6 users but throughout the retail community.

Apple Pay is not the only game in town. Apple competes against other payments systems, such as Google Pay, which supports virtually all Android devices as well as iOS devices. JetBlue vice president for inflight experience Rachel McCarthy told USA Today that people with Google Wallet or another mobile payments system will be able to pay via their phones sometime "down the road."

Apple has already signed up major credit card companies and many banks as well as a variety of retail chains and merchants. But expanding Apple Pay to other industries is critical for its adoption. So hopping onboard the airlines is an important step for Apple. And Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for Internet software and services, believes JetBlue's move will trigger more airlines to support Apple Pay.

"Somebody else doing it always puts pressure on the other guy," Cue said, according to USA Today.

Apple Pay won't be restricted to just the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Due to debut in April, the Apple Watch will also support Apple's payments system anywhere it's accepted.

Support for Apple Pay will start on JetBlue with transcontinental flights between JFK and airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles, JetBlue said. More flights will be added to the list in March. And by June, all JetBlue flights are expected to support Apple Pay. In the third quarter of this year, people will also be able to use Apple Pay through JetBlue's mobile app.

An Apple spokesperson told CNET that the company had nothing further to share on the record.