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Some frequent flyers will soon be able to use Apple Pay to order drinks or upgrade their seat for extra legroom, as U.S. airline JetBlue announced on Tuesday that it would start accepting Apple's mobile payment service on select flights next week.
The first Apple Pay-equipped flights will be transcontinental affairs between New York and California, with all flights ready to go by June, according to USA Today. The new functionality comes as part of a wider rollout of iPad mini tablets to JetBlue cabin staff, after pilots were given iPads in 2013.
The crew cabin tablets, with credit card readers integrated into a protective case, will e-mail receipts to customers rather than generating a printed copy. Customized software on the tablets will also allow crew members to identify frequent fliers or passengers traveling on their birthday, and the airline hopes to soon gain FAA certification to eschew paper copies of its hefty flight attendant manual in favor of digital versions loaded onto the iPads.
JetBlue executive Rachel McCarthy said that Apple Pay would be the only mobile wallet accepted at this time. Consumers using Google Wallet or other competing services could take advantage of mobile payment convenience "down the road."
"Somebody else doing it always puts pressure on the other guy," said Apple software and services chief Eddy Cue, discussing the possibility of Apple Pay being rolled out to more airlines. Cue also noted that Apple Pay will eventually be adopted by other transit operators, like municipal rail systems, but that those deals "tend to move slower than you and I would like" thanks to regulation and funding.
"In our world, we really do want to replace the wallet at some point in time, and Apple Pay is the start of that," Cue added.