Apple Pay

JetBlue was the first US airline to implement Apple Pay for in-flight purchases. Image via JetBlue

APEX Insight: Chip and PIN technology can be complicated and costly, and Near Field Communication (NFC) credit cards are prone to high-tech pickpocketing. Digital payment solutions might not only prove easier to implement on board but also more popular among passengers.

The APEX Payment Technology Working Group has dedicated itself to helping airlines navigate the challenges of chip and PIN payment requirements, but, as APEX TECH experts have pointed out, adopting the technology is complicated. As digital payment solutions take hold, they might not only prove easier to implement but also more popular among customers.

Kristian Gjerding, CEO of CellPoint Mobile, a company specializing in secure payment solutions, tells us that aviation is not the only industry encountering problems with chip and PIN point-of-sale (POS) devices. “The technology is there, and it’s not a big technical challenge, but it’s just cumbersome and costly,” he says.

Another popular payment method being introduced globally is Near Field Communication (NFC) credit cards, which process payments by proximity to a reader. But recent reports of NFC fraud raise questions about the security and longevity of this payment platform. This February, news went viral in the UK that a thief had been spotted on the London Underground scanning cards still in people’s wallets by using a handheld scanner. High-tech pickpocketing is a known NFC credit card vulnerability, says Gjerding: “If I have a reader in my pocket and I walk close to people in a traffic environment, it does take transactions. They have not sorted that out yet. I think they will find ways.”

“With Apple Pay you need to touch your fingerprint as authentication. You can’t [proximity pickpocket] mobile phones.” — Kristian Gjerding, CellPoint Mobile

Mobile digital payment solutions are as easy to use as NFC but have more stringent controls. “It’s not necessarily going to be the same way with mobile pay,” says Gjerding. “With Apple Pay you need to touch your fingerprint as authentication. You can’t [proximity pickpocket] mobile phones.”

JetBlue is satisfied with its foray into Apple Pay mobile transactions, and is considering other beneficial applications. “We want to make onboard purchasing as simple and quick as possible, so our customers can enjoy their flight and our crew can work efficiently,” says Doug McGraw, JetBlue’s director of Corporate Communications. “One of our big learnings was that we had to educate customers that Apple Pay was an option, so we added it to our onboard announcement and seatback card. It’s still a relatively new payment technology, and we think long-term contactless payment offers big opportunity to take friction out of transactions. For example, we are looking at bringing Apple Pay to our airport kiosks through NFC technology soon.”

“We want to make onboard purchasing as simple and quick as possible, so our customers can enjoy their flight and our crew can work efficiently.” — Doug McGraw, JetBlue

Emirates is very happy with its Apple Pay solution, and is seeing an incremental revenue stream from travelers using Apple Pay to book flights, according to Gjerding. He attributes this good performance to a combination of the convenience of Apple Pay and the appeal of Dubai, the airline’s home base and connecting hub, as a tourist destination. “Don’t forget that Apple Pay is early days, and they’re the first ones who actually got this right from a consumer perspective,” he says.

And, Gjerding reminds us, Apple isn’t the only type of mobile payment available. “You’re going to see Android Pay coming out massively,” he says. “I think Google really got it right this time.”

To learn more about the latest payment technologies, attend APEX TECH, taking place June 8-9 in Los Angeles. See the full agenda and register here

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.