September 30, 2022


All The Technology

United Will Let You Make In-Flight Purchases With PayPal

United Airlines and PayPal have partnered for a new touch-free way to make in-flight purchases. By the end of the year, United passengers can show a PayPal QR code on their smartphone to buy snacks, drinks and other in-flight purchases.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, United stopped accepting cash and credit card payments onboard flights in an effort toward “a safer and more touchless travel experience.” Since last March, passengers who wanted to buy in-flight snacks or drinks have had to first download the United app and save a form of payment to a digital wallet before boarding.

United has the airline industry’s most downloaded app, with up to 2.5 million users. That number pales, of course, next to the nearly 400 million active PayPal users.

Passengers wishing to make purchases with PayPal on their flight will need to open the PayPal app prior to leaving the gate and set their preferred payment method for QR code payments. Then, during the flight, they should click the “Pay with QR codes” button and the “In-flight Purchase” button before showing the QR code to the flight attendant. The passenger will receive an emailed confirmation receipt upon landing.

The new PayPal option will be offered first on select flights departing from Chicago O’ Hare International Airport and then roll out before the end of the year across the carrier’s entire network where contactless payment is available.

Another key benefit to paying with PayPal onboard is that the QR code functionality works offline and in low connectivity areas, says Frank Keller, PayPal’s senior vice president of Enterprise Segment Solutions and Digital Commerce.

In June, United reintroduced a revamped menu of for-purchase snacks and meal options on most flights over two hours. Most United flights over two hours also offer beer, wine and hard seltzer.

During the pandemic, amid an epidemic of unruly passengers often fueled by alcohol, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have stopped selling alcohol to passengers flying coach. Rounding out the largest six U.S. airlines, United, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways all continue to sell alcohol to all passengers.

In August, United Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to tell its roughly 67,000 employees that they must be fully vaccinated by October 25 or risk termination. By all accounts, the get-vaccinated-or-else message has been effective. A little over a after announcing the mandate, United announced that 99.5% of employees were vaccinated against Covid-19, not including the roughly 3% of staff with exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

Last month, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill requiring that passengers on domestic flights be vaccinated or show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a plane.