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Panasonic launches at-seat mobile payments for airlines

In-flight entertainment and connectivity specialist Panasonic Avionics unveils near-field communications system to let airline passengers use mobile payments in the air

Panasonic Avionics, a supplier of in-flight entertainment (IFE) and connectivity solutions, has launched a near-field communications (NFC) reader for the aviation industry that will enable passengers to pay for goods and services using their mobile devices from their seats while in the air.

Panasonic’s NFC reader currently supports only MasterCard payments, but the firm said it was in discussions with other providers, including American Express and Visa, to make the technology compliant with their products.

“For airlines, EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) on IFE platforms should help eliminate potential transaction liabilities that they face today,” said Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis. “This significant milestone demonstrates our continued leadership in developing technologies that create a seamless passenger travel experience.”

Besides payments for extra services, Panasonic said it expected the technology to be used to support other applications, such as: recognition of frequent-flyer status for additional perks, such as free Wi-Fi; crew check-in and check-out; and pairing with the embedded in-flight entertainment system, which could allow airlines to push information to passenger-owned devices.

“In addition, passengers will be able to synchronize their own trusted token to the IFE system and create unique ‘just-for-me’ experiences without compromising any of the personal data stored on their own device,” said Margis.

A recent study by Juniper Research analysts suggested that the annual transaction value of online, mobile and contactless payments would hit $3.6tn (£2.5bn) this year, up 20%, with the deployment of NFC by the likes of Apple and Samsung increasing consumer awareness and usage of mobile payment services.

Towards the end of March 2016, Google revealed that it would soon make its Android Pay app available in the UK, after encouraging take-up levels in South Korea and the US, which together saw five million sign-ups, and $500m worth of transactions, in the first six months after launch.

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Meanwhile, Apple saw a million credit cards registered with Apple Pay in the US in the first three days after the service launched.

Separately, Panasonic Avionics announced that it will deploy connectivity on Singapore Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

Besides at-seat entertainment offerings – which will include a terabyte of movie and television content – it will offer broadband internet services to seatback video systems and passenger devices, and a mobile phone service. The supplier made the announcement at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2016, which is currently under way in Germany.

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