Image via Lufthansa Systems

APEX Insight: By partnering with open payment experts optile, Lufthansa Systems will enable its BoardConnect wireless in-flight entertainment system to accept a variety of online payments, from PayPal to Alipay. Using an airline app, passengers need only enter their details once to continue paying for goods and services throughout their journey.

Lufthansa Systems has partnered with Munich-based open payment experts optile to run a pilot project before this summer that will enable its BoardConnect wireless in-flight entertainment system to accept a variety of online payments from PayPal to Alipay.

According to Jan-Peter Gaense, head of Passenger Experience Products and Solutions at Lufthansa Systems, feedback from existing airline customers showed passengers want to pay using their preferred method for a “frictionless” experience, simplifying the process for them, and also increasing ancillary-revenue potential for airlines. “Passengers will love the seamless payment process, which makes it really easy to buy products and services. This will help airlines to keep the passenger in their ecosystem throughout the entire journey,” Gaense told APEX Media.

“This will help airlines to keep the passenger in their ecosystem throughout the entire journey.” – Jan-Peter Gaense, Lufthansa Systems

Passengers need only enter their payment details in an airline’s app once (upon booking, for example) to continue paying for other goods and services, such as entertainment content, during their flight. An early phase of testing was conducted late last year, with select Eurowings passengers ordering and paying for food and beverages using their credit cards in flight.

“We learned a lot in this first trial and have since planned a more extensive pilot project together with Eurowings, Lufthansa Technik and Retail InMotion,” said Gaense.

By tapping into optile’s payment capabilities, which use complex technology that enables it to be compliant with different tax laws, airlines using BoardConnect will also be able to pick and choose which payment methods they want to support, as well as quickly integrate new ones.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz recently said its holding company, International Airlines Group, which operates Aer Lingus, Iberia, Vueling and Level, is working on bringing popular Chinese payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay on board.

“I’m upset every day that we don’t have the ability to actually facilitate payment for our Chinese customers through these platforms,” Cruz said at a roundtable meeting in Hong Kong. “I sincerely hope that we finally do it this year, because it makes a huge difference.”

Cruz added that accepting payments that are preferred by its passengers helps an airline brand make a good impression. “British Airways is not the biggest brand in China, and it never will be. But when Chinese people think about Britain, they need to think about British Airways. We need to be there and we need to be present as a brand.”

As for whether Lufthansa Systems will enable BoardConnect to accept offline payments, Gaense said they’re still wondering whether it will be worthwhile, since for in-flight payments, the logging in, accessing existing account and processing data, which require connectivity, is crucial.

“We believe that in the next five to seven years all aircraft will have some kind of connectivity system installed making offline payments completely irrelevant,” Gaense said, adding that, “We do have some cool ideas though that we are discussing with our airline customers.”

Caroline is managing editor at APEX Media.