Mid-air card fraud fear haunts low cost carriers

Modern wireless POS-terminal with battery and GPRS module

NEW DELHI: The fear of card fraud is giving the jitters to low cost carriers as they prepare to go cashless for onboard sales. The reason: Card fraudsters could ‘buy’ eatables and drinks mid-air by swiping stolen cards but whether their transaction has been approved or not will be known only when the plane lands and the swipe machine is connected online to its bank. By the time the airline realises a card swipe has been declined, the passengers would have alighted from the plane and gone away.
“The problem is less severe while landing in big cities or metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai as the swipe machine will get connected quickly and we will hopefully be able to detect any declined transaction in time to catch the passenger.
But while landing in smaller towns where connectivity is an issue, this will prove to be a challenge,” said a senior official of a low cost carrier (LCC).
While such passengers can caught later, airlines will have to follow the tedious legal procedure which may not be worth it for a declined transaction of, say, Rs 200. “When a card is swiped on ground, it is immediately known whether the transaction is approved or not.

Accordingly, the goods or services are given to the consumer in most cases. But in air, the person would have already consumed the things bought with a stolen card before we can realise the transaction has been declined,” said the official.
On full service carriers passengers do not need to pay for food and drinks, though there are exceptions among foreign airlines, they can use cash or swipe cards for duty free purchases on international flights. But LCCs sell eatables, drinks on board. “We give them the option of paying in US $ or currency of the origin and destination country.” said a LCC executive. In India, IndiGo accepts cards for onboard sales. Spice-Jet is preparing to be able to do so in some weeks