United Airlines Pioneers PayPal QR Code Payments Inflight

United Airlines has become the first in the world to introduce PayPal QR payments onboard its flights. Using QR codes, the airline will allow customers to pay for inflight purchases with a simple scan, making the entire process touch-free. The partnership with the electronic payment giant will launch in Chicago next month, and will be rolled out across the network before the end of the year.

United Airlines Pioneers PayPal QR Code Payments Inflight
United is making it easier for passengers to pay via PayPal. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Touch-free payments

United Airlines has teamed up with PayPal to bring a more touch-free journey to its passengers. Beginning next month, passengers will begin to be offered the ability to use a QR code to initiate a PayPal payment in order to fund their snacks and drinks onboard. The service can also be used for other inflight purchases, including onboard shopping.

It’s the first time an airline has offered PayPal payments via a QR code, making it easier and faster to make a convenient and touch-free payment. It’s the latest addition to United’s suite of contactless payment tools that range from pre-ordered snacks and drinks to payments made through the airline’s app.

Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United, commented on the facility, saying,

“Our contactless payment offering is built on simplicity and choice and it’s another way we’re improving the overall experience of flying United. PayPal is a terrific partner and this technology gives our customers another easy way to make purchases, even when they’re not online. We expect to introduce even more new and innovative options for our customers in the future through our collaboration with PayPal.”

United Airlines Pioneers PayPal QR Code Payments Inflight
Cabin crew simply scan a QR code to take payment. Photo: United Airlines

The first routes to get the QR payment facility will be departures from Chicago O’Hare, beginning in November. However, United is planning a rapid rollout of the technology, targeting a complete network coverage before the end of 2021.

Works with or without WiFi

While PayPal is a common transactional tool on the ground, its rollout in the sky has been somewhat limited by patchy WiFi connectivity and the fact that not every aircraft has connectivity onboard. But PayPal says that the QR technology will work even when WiFi is not available.

United Airlines Pioneers PayPal QR Code Payments Inflight
No WiFi? No problem. Photo: United Airlines

Frank Keller, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Segment Solutions and Digital Commerce at PayPal, commented,

“We’re excited to be partnering with United to introduce our new offline QR code functionality, adding more ways for customers to check out with PayPal in more places, especially in offline or low connectivity areas. Bringing PayPal QR Codes inflight reinforces our commitment to offering customers choice and provides a new level of touch-free convenience for consumers when making in-flight purchases, within the PayPal app they know and trust.”

To prevent any mishaps with loss of connectivity, passengers are advised to download the PayPal app prior to takeoff and to already have a payment method linked to the QR code facility. After taking off, they can then click ‘pay with QR codes’ in the PayPal app, and the flight attendant will simply scan the code to take payment for purchases.

Reconciliation will take place once the aircraft is on the ground. At this point, passengers will get an email receipt for their purchases. It’s simple, familiar and a great way to reduce contact onboard.