Recently, I took a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles, and while there was nothing really different from this flight and the dozens of others that I have taken over the last couple years, I found myself taking special notice to the flight attendant who was using a mobile payment application to collect payment for the $8 cookie the passenger in front of me had ordered.
I wondered: What did they do before mobile technology existed to take care of this?
I was instantly taken back to a time not so long ago when cash was the only payment option available during a flight. While cash was, and still is, an effective means of commerce, it created constant turmoil for the flight crew. There was rarely a flight were flight attendants were not asking passengers for smaller bills, or keeping notes on how much they owed passengers in hopes of being able to make change after someone else purchased with small bills. The system, while it eventually worked itself out, was not ideal.
How Have Mobile Applications Taken Over?
Mobile applications and mobile technology has:
- Eliminated the issues associated with making change
- Improved the airlines collections percentage
- Freed the flight attendants to focus on customer satisfaction
The first mobile payment applications were so successful that their use quickly spread from one airline to all of the airlines, and today, they are virtually the only accepted method of payment for purchases on flights. It’s interesting how such a simple application entered the mainstream and changed purchasing behavior.
Other Ways Airlines Use Mobile Technology
Airlines are not only using mobile computing technology to drive mobile payment, but also throughout the operation, in a variety of ways:
- Pilots have their entire flight plans available on tablets, replacing the 20-pound black flight bags that they used to carry. This saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs, not to mention the cost of creating, distributing and disposing of paper flight books.
- Baggage handlers use mobile technology to track baggage via barcode labels and ensure that passengers’ luggage follows them through the system. On international flights, this same process is used to ensure the owner of a bag on a flight has boarded the flight as well.
- Mechanics use mobile technology to identify parts, track assets and manage work orders as part of a broader service and maintenance application