Mobile payments… Where art thou?

So I’ve arrived at JFK International, New York, and I have a few hours to while around before my connecting flight to Orlando.

I thought I’d make good use of my time here by scouring the various airport shops (fast food, gift, apparel, luggage, book, and many other kinds of outlets) for signs of Mobile Payments’ ascendancy. If there is a self contained ecosystem where the business case for a limited Mobile Payments pilot would be strongest, this would be it, right? The vast majority of commuters sport the latest smartphones, speed of service (and payments processing) is paramount, etc.

But alas, as I walked up and down the isles, peering into store after store, it became clear that none of the stores at JKF terminals 2 and 3 had anything resembling support for mobile payments. At one of the two Star Bucks’ I went into an assistant gave me a very rude scowl when I enquired about the much vaunted Square solution (another assistant at the other Star Bucks gave me a very polite “I just work here…” smile, but didn’t open her mouth to answer any of my questions.

So… maybe an airport terminal is not such an ideal place to experiment with a new payment medium… too many grumpy and irate passengers that just want to get to their destination with as little hassle or fuss as possible.

Perhaps the closest thing resembling Mobile Payments (I’ll call it “nearly Mobile Payments” for lack of a formal nomenclature with which to describe what they do) was B4 You Board which had boards up advertising a service that allowed one to place their order using their mobile phone (iPhone and Android, only) and have it delivered at their boarding gate. The payment was a standard “card not present” credit card payment form, as one will find on any eCommerce web site – it just happened to be built into an app. This is definitely not what I’d hoped to find representing the best half baked attempt at Mobile Payments at one of the worlds busiest airports.

I certainly hope that Orlando and Chicago have more to offer the world of Mobile Payments than an eCommerce checkout page built into an app.