Tips for Flying without Cash

With many airlines no longer taking cash for onboard purchases, it pays to plan ahead

Credit: SpecialKRB

Many airlines no longer accept cash for onboard purchases

No need to hit the ATM before your next flight.

In fact, a number of airlines no longer accept cash 
for onboard purchases. We’re now at the point where nearly every major airline in North America has gone cashless in the cabin.

Just recently, Continental, Delta and Northwest joined United, AirTran, Virgin and a few others in the “cashless cabin” movement. Instead, flight attendants with these companies have been equipped with card readers.

There are a couple of different schools of thought on this new development — many flight attendants are pleased that they no longer have to worry about giving change, and the new system also means improved tracking and accounting for the airlines.
 On the other hand, cashless cabins are reliant on their hand-held equipment working properly, while the move could also potentially alienate an airline’s cash-only customers — especially children flying alone.

Tips for Flying without Cash

Some parents have expressed concern about the hassle of sending a credit card onboard with unaccompanied minors, which is understandable. If you’re one of those parents, consider the following:

Some airlines still offer complimentary snacks and meals to kids flying alone. Check with your airline before you start worrying about how your child is going to pay for that in-flight sandwich.

  • Or, keep it really simple and pack food and snacks for your child, even if the flight is short — we all know there can be delays and the last thing any parent wants is their child to be hungry or thirsty.
There’s also the option of buying airline vouchers. Alaska and Continental sell vouchers that serve as airline currency and can be used to buy onboard meals, headsets, blankets and other items. To purchase these ahead of time, go online or call the airline to find out how.

  • If you don’t want to give your child a credit card, Visa or American Express gift cards can act in place of an actual credit card to cover snacks, meals or any emergencies. This is a great idea because you set the amount and if the gift card gets lost, there won’t be any charges beyond the amount you had originally set.
 But keep in mind that even if your child is scheduled to fly on an airline with a cashless cabin, they could have 
a connecting flight on a regional carrier that takes cash only. So, it’s always a good idea to make sure travelling kids have a few bucks in their pocket if 
need be.

Cashless Airlines

Several airlines have now jumped onto the plastic-only bandwagon when it comes to onboard purchases. They include:

  • AirTran Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
Continental Airlines
Frontier Airlines
JetBlue Airways
Midwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
Virgin America

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.