Just announced this morning at the 2014 Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California, Panasonic Avionics Corporation is introducing Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology to its in-flight entertainment systems. This means wallet-free on board purchases for flyers, plus benefits for airlines.

Panasonic IFE Screens on an American Airlines 777-300ER, by Paul Thompson

There are already over 200 million NFC-equipped phones out there, but this is the first implementation we've seen for the in-flight experience. Panasonic says they have been working on their NFC technology for a couple of years, in spite of skepticism from industry observers who thought the timeline for broad NFC adoption was still years away. However, last week's announcement from Apple that the iPhone 6 would be equipped with NFC capability changed the game, because now that millions more people will have NFC devices, they'll look for practical ways to use it. Paul Margis, CEO of Panasonic Avionics said:

"We have seen the demand from airlines and their passengers, and after two years of research and development, we are proud to continue our innovation leadership by delivering this latest technology solution to our customers."


Passengers and crew will soon be able to use their NFC-capable devices on board for things such as:

  • High value transactions and purchases
  • Synchronization of personal data to create just-for-me experiences. For example, your device can communicate to the airline that you like a certain wine when you fly, or that you prefer vegetarian meals.
  • Recognition of your frequent flyer status, providing potential benefits like free WiFi
  • Enabling crew members to check in and out of duty
  • Pairing NFC with the entertainment system at your seat, the airline could push a specific update to you, such as departing gate information for your connecting flight.


There are benefits on the ground too. Panasonic envisions a "seamless passenger travel thread," where NFC can be used to at the time of check-in, and would integrate into baggage handling. This year alone, we've seen NFC used in a trial basis at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where airline passengers can "Tap n' Fly" their NFC devices to board the aircraft. Samsung is also working with airlines to provide NFC boarding passes.