Posted August 13, 2008 by Zak Patten
There's nothing like a fistful of dollars or a nice, fat stack of twenties to make you feel rich. Looking at your online bank statement or listening to an automated recording of your credit limit just doesn't have the raw visceral power of cold hard cash. Which is what makes two recent airline initiatives so intriguing. On the one hand, there's JetBlue, which has partnered with Western Union to allow passengers to use cash to pay for tickets. On the other hand, there's US Airways, which is eliminating onboard cash payments altogether. To understand this Tale of Two Airlines, we just have to follow the money.
With what has to be one of 2008's most old-school moves, JetBlue has set up its website so that after booking, customers can cruise over to their local Western Union office and slap down a pile of real paper money to pay. Sure, you might have booked online or by phone at 800-JETBLUE, and Western Union might have performed some high-tech wizardry to transfer your payment to the airline, but come on, you just paid for your ticket with money hidden in your sock drawer—how 1970s-cool is that? Customers have until midnight on the day after they book to pay up. Sounds a little Sopranos-esque, but I'm guessing the consequences of not paying are merely that you'll lose your seat, as opposed to your kneecaps.
At the same time JetBlue is letting folks pay for flights with spare change, US Airways is taking the opposite tack and equipping its flight attendants with handheld credit card readers. Starting in 2009, crew members will be able to use these gizmos to easily collect payments for the airline's new charges, such as those for soft drinks. According to Michelle Mohr, US Airways' Spokesperson, “It’s more convenient for our customers. We realize consumers these days aren’t going to have a pocket full of cash. We want to move to a cashless cabin.”
Actually, JetBlue is already using the credit card readers, as are American and Delta. US Airways is hardly breaking new ground here, but in these tough economic times, it probably helps airline bottom lines if people just have to fork over their credit cards rather than fishing for a few bucks in their pockets. After all, when you give someone your credit card, you always get it back, good as new. When you fork over your cash, it's gone for good.
(Photo: Index Open)
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