Malaysian Airlines will shortly begin trialling a real-time, handheld credit card authentication service during flight, in a move that is expected to reduce the debt incurred by the carrier when passengers make fraudulent transactions on board.

At present, credit cards are swiped via wireless handhelds on aircraft but the transactions are processed when the aircraft gets on the ground. Because of this billing mechanism - which sometimes results in fraudulent transactions - there is a ceiling of the value of items that can be comfortably sold today.

AeroMobile claims its SkyBuy offering, which harnesses the firm's real-time satellite links, "is the world's first turnkey solution for supporting credit card purchases on aircraft and inventory control".

Malaysian will trial SkyBuy "in a month or so", says Peter Tuggey, chief commercial officer of AeroMobile, a joint venture between Arinc and Telenor.

"Implementing services like this helps underwrite the business case for connectivity in general since you're dispelling the debt that goes with credit card fraud and can sell higher margin stuff on the aircraft. It's a win, win situation," he adds.

Since November 2008 passengers on certain Malaysian Boeing 777-200 flights have been able to use their own BlackBerry-type devices and mobile phones to send/receive emails and text messages, and to make and receive voice calls, as part of the carrier's trial of AeroMobile's system.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news