Highflying Apple Pay reaches 35,000 feet with JetBlue deal

JetBlue announced it will begin accepting Apple Pay on select flights. The partnership indicates that Apple Pay may continue to dominate the mobile-pay market.

Seth Wenig/AP
A man watches a JetBlue airplane take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

It appears the hazy clouds that loomed over Apple Pay’s launch may be parting, allowing the payment system to take to the skies.

JetBlue announced it will be partnering with Apple to allow passengers to pay for on-board amenities, such as food, drinks, and even upgrading seats, using an iPhones 6 or iPhones 6 Plus.

The airline will begin accepting Apple Pay next week on select flights and will be trading in its old mobile payment devices for iPad minis.

JetBlue plans to have all flights using Apple Pay by June and will also take payments from customers wearing the upcoming Apple Watch. Regular debit or credits cards can be used with the new system and JetBlue is expected to start accepting other mobile payments, such as Google Wallet, “down the road.”

Apple has been pushing its pay system hard since the debut in October, which faced strong initial support, followed by quick rejection from a number of retailers. Walmart, CVS, and Rite Aid disabled Apple Pay after only a week. These companies, along with Best Buy and 50 other stores, decided to instead support rival CurrentC from Merchant Customer Exchange, a merchant-owned mobile payment company. The competitor entices retailers by foregoing the average 2 percent swipe fees charged by credit card companies for each transaction.

However, Apple may have the last laugh. While some retailers were looking to save themselves a little money, the future of mobile payments appears to be headed toward Apple Pay. As the Wall Street Journal reported in January, two out of every three dollars spent using contactless payment through Visa, MasterCard, and American Express was done so using Apple Pay. The mobile payment is already accepted at more than 220,000 store locations, is used by 750 banks and credit unions, and there are plans to roll out the system at 200,000 self-serve stations, such as vending machines and kiosks.

To add to Apple’s momentum, the e-mail provider that supports Merchant Customer Exchange was hacked shortly after retailers abandoned Apple Pay and the system has not received much praise from critics. Apple Pay has had rather a positive response in terms of security on the other hand.

As Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook put it at a tech conference in California last year, "In the long arc of time, you’re only relevant as a retailer and merchant if your customers love you."

[Editor's note: This article has been changed from its original version to clarify that the hack against Merchant Customer Exchange hit the company's e-mail provider, not MCX's own servers.]

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