On a recent Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Baltimore, it was clear to me that the carrier's cashless cabin strategy is working well. Flight attendants were busily swiping credit cards for those passengers who enjoy a little more kick to their glass of coke. One friendly attendant told me that the carrier has sold over 1,000,000 alcoholic beverages to passengers since the programme's 9 September launch. Southwest hasn't confirmed this figure, but says it has "definitely seen an increase in sales".
In any case, all this great cashless action made me wonder - what about the credit card transactions that don't go through? The GuestLogix credit card devices used on board Southwest and other carrier's flights do not conduct real-time transactions....yet.
And so, as one would expect, there are probably more than a few instances where Southwest doesn't get paid when it lands the aircraft and completes the transactions.
A Southwest spokesman tells me that the carrier has had "so few" credit card declines that it really isn't a problem. However, the carrier has a few options available to it should you, errr someone, contemplate sliding a card that would otherwise be rejected on the ground.
Depending on the situation, says the spokesman, Southwest can either contact the customer directly or contact his or her credit card company. It's not clear if Southwest has taken the time and energy to do either.
What is clear, however, is that Southwest knows that it isn't ideal that thirsty travellers can currently abuse the system by running otherwise unusable cards. And the airline has a plan of action.
RWG can reveal that Southwest is exploring how it might harness in-flight connectivity to facilitate real-time transactions.
A trial of Row 44's Ku-band solution on Boeing 737 aircraft is forthcoming and so real-time transactions are "definitely something we're looking at and considering", confirms the Southwest spokesman.