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Contactless payments come to in-flight entertainment units

Get ready to pay for movies, people

Near field communications (NFC) readers can now be baked into in-flight entertainment devices, making it possible to offer contactless payments in the sky.

Panasonic Avionics, a dominant provider of in-flight entertainment units and the back-endery required to make them fly has announced its NFC readers are ready to take off. For now, the company has only secured approval from MasterCard, but talks have commenced with Visa and China Union Pay, with Discover and American Express on the agenda.

Long story short? Before too long, Panasonic's going to be selling the idea of in-seat contactless payments hard to airlines.

Airlines are keen for any additional source of revenue as the “would you like fries with that?” experience of booking a ticket these days attests. Even reasonably posh airlines now charge for food and drink in the air, usually encouraging payment by card to avoid the mucky chore of handling cash. Some even charge for in-flight entertainment.

Easy in-seat payments raise the prospect of airlines charging for more in-seat services.

Panasonic thinks carriers will use the technology benevolently: it imagines frequent fliers will be able to wave their membership cards to unlock free in-flight WiFi, invoke personalised services, or crew using cards to sign on for shifts.

The Register is willing to bet that those applications arrive, but that airlines also find ways to charge passengers for more services, more often. ®

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