Plastic will be invading the airline cabin. Plan on having at least one credit card accessible during your flight. Technology has made it easier for more airlines to accept credit and debit cards to pay for inflight services such as drinks and meals.
These airlines are currently cashless: Frontier Airlines, AirTran Airways, Allegiant Air (all three do not service the Hawaii market) and Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines stopped accepting cash on its trans-Pacific flights two years ago and in January 2007 expanded the policy to its interisland flights.
So far none of the nation's big airlines have gone cashless but they are likely considering it. American Airlines has tested a program of accepting credit/debit cards on select flights. Delta is testing the cashless system as well and is expected to roll it out companywide over the next year.
Like some savvy restaurants or retail stores, battery-operated handheld devices for card processing will allow flight attendants to swipe your card, obtain your credit information, make the charge and return your card in about the same time it takes to make change.
It all works to everyone's advantage. Passengers are able to conserve cash, especially when traveling to their vacation destination, and still able to buy things on board. Flight attendants will no longer have the hassles of getting change, extra paperwork and general money handling.
For airlines, the system will cut down on theft. But the bigggest benefit for airlines is probably an increase in revenue since there is an attractive ease to using a credit card for passengers to say, buy a drink or two. Can someone say "in-flight breathalyzer"?