Cashless sky: Majority of airlines go cash-free

Travel has come a long way since the days of traveler’s checks and queuing at traditional bureaux de change, and the payment methods holidaymakers use abroad are rapidly changing with only 9% of purchases expected to be made in cash by 2028.

Airlines are also adopting a more cash-free approach with only 5 of 15 major airlines still accepting cash payments on-board.

In order to help savvy travelers keep up-to-date with these developments, travel experts compared the payment options available on 15 popular airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Qatar Airways.

So, is it really over for cash payments on board airlines? Travelers should be aware that 10 of the 15 most popular airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Emirates, have already moved away from accepting cash payments and only accept debit or credit card payments in-flight.

All 15 airlines accept major credit cards such as American Express, Visa and Mastercard and passengers flying with Etihad Airways and Virgin Atlantic who wish to make inflight purchases should note that credit cards are the only valid payment option onboard.

Surprisingly, however, only just over half of the airlines researched accept debit card payments on board their flights due to debit cards not being affiliated with a major credit card company and therefore are not a valid payment method in the skies. Turkish Airlines, Japan Airlines and British Airways are among the airlines that will allow passengers to make purchases using debit cards.

Passengers who wish to pay for their in-flight indulgences with physical money should consider flying with Air France, Lufthansa, Delta, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways – the remaining five popular airlines to accept money on board flights. However, holidaymakers travelling with Qatar Airways should note that the airline only accepts Qatari riyal and US dollars.

Other increasingly popular payment methods include application payments such as Apple Pay which is accepted on board Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines and Delta. Similarly, travelers are being encouraged by Air Canada and Lufthansa to use the airline apps to purchase digital content and shopping services whilst on board and those flying with American Airlines can use the American Airlines app to pay for an upgrade mid-flight from Economy to Main Cabin Extra. Travelers flying with seven of the 15 airlines, including Air Canada, Air France and Virgin Atlantic, can also pre-pay for in-flight duty-free.

For the more tech-savvy traveler, Emirates have introduced an on-screen ordering system in First Class where food can be bought directly to passenger seats. Four of the airlines researched have already listed prepaid travel cards as valid payment methods onboard, with Turkish Airlines and British Airways accepting prepaid Monzo cards, and Emirates and Delta also accepting post office travel cards alongside Monzo payments.