Bitcoin, the digital currency, is ready for lift-off.
The global provider of point-of-purchase systems (POS) for the airline industry, GuestLogix, is introducing the cryptocurrency to its Transaction Processing Engine® (TPE), software that runs on its handheld terminals, mobile platforms and in-flight entertainment systems, allowing it to be used for in-flight purchases.
For a Bitcoin transaction to occur onboard, a flight attendant passes the POS terminal to a passenger with a QR code displayed. The QR code acts as an address where the funds will be sent. With a few taps of the touchscreen, the flight attendant produces a barcode for the transaction amount. Once the barcode is scanned, the passenger’s smartphone mirrors it and the debited amount appears, signaling a successful transaction.
“So it’s an exchange of funds, Bitcoins in this case, through the scanning of barcodes,” said Ramez Hanna, chief architect, GuestLogix.
With Bitcoin, passengers can continue to pay for products and services offline when the aircraft is not connected to the Internet. The actual remittance of funds occurs later when a connection is secured. Not all payment methods have this capability including Interac and similar debit cards, PayPal and Visa Checkout.
Bitcoin has gained traction since it launched in 2009 and is even accepted by iTunes, Amazon, BestBuy and Expedia, but it is far from surpassing credit cards as the preferred form of payment onboard.
In the aviation industry, airBaltic was the first airline to adopt Bitcoin and started accepting payment on flights last year, but no airline has accepted the digital currency onboard. Craig Proud, senior vice-president, Platform says that GuestLogix is in discussion with some airlines to accept Bitcoin and thinks that the alternative payment will especially appeal to low-cost carriers, as they tend to want to be seen as early adopters.
“It’s in our benefit to accept as many payment methods as we can,” said Proud. “So if there’s customers out there that want to use Bitcoin and that helps them to purchase items onboard, that’s good for us.”
Airlines currently using GuestLogix systems will have the option to accept Bitcoin payments in an upcoming software update of the TPE, expected in September. GuestLogix’ TPE platform currently serves 25 airlines on 3,100 aircraft.
For more on digital payment, see our stories on Visa Checkout and Apple Pay. Also, read “Smart Card” from our Technology Issue, written by APEX Payment Tech Working Group, member Michael Planey for the latest regulations for securer credit card payments.