Instead of hoarding frequent flyer miles for the possibility of getting a free ticket to a holiday hot spot someday, airlines would like to see those travelers use those miles on something far more attainable.
In-flight Internet has been a service domestic carriers in the US desperately want to offer their passengers. Despite the continued rise in airfares, oil prices have started escalating again, eating into the profits airlines make.
To recoup some of that lost revenue, airlines want permission to offer services like the popular iTunes Store during flights. FlightGlobal.com reported Apple has chatted with Thales, an electronics company that serves the aerospace and other industries:
"We've had lots of discussions with Apple," said Thales vice-president and in-flight systems general manager Brad Foreman last week at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. "The key is to get them to see the value of hosting iTunes on an aircraft. Is it a big enough market for them to be interested in? I'd try to do it tomorrow if they said yes."
Panasonic Avionics, part of Matushita Panasonic, likewise would love to see Apple give airlines permission to build iPod docks in seatbacks, and permit those users to browse iTunes through an existing in-flight entertainment system.
Several issues make the prospect of in-flight downloads of the latest Coldplay song from iTunes an unlikely prospect. Apple would have to officially permit and engineer a way for users to move songs downloaded in-flight back to their PCs. That's presently a huge no-no due to piracy concerns.
Users do have alternative methods for moving songs from an iPod to a PC, but they aren't ones Apple recommends at all. Third-party applications like iPodRip or PodPlus enable this, and the Hymn Project allows users to remove the DRM from iTunes purchases so those songs can be played on other systems.
The report also noted how licensing issues would crop up when someone downloaded music from iTunes in international airspace. Those problems include determining which nation's copyright laws would be in effect, and which country should be given credit for the sale for data tracking purposes.
Pricing of the service was not addressed. It is likely iTunes pricing would be what it normally is for terrestrial users per song, or video for the newest iPod models, and the airlines would charge a fee for connecting an iPod to their in-flight entertainment system.
Any pricing system would likely draw the scrutiny of the major music labels. Those companies have engaged in a sometimes-public fight with Apple over the future of song prices. Apple wants to keep the single price model, and the labels want tiers where more popular music costs more.
Apple's only comment in the article was its standard "Apple never talks about the future" line, a fairly standard practice for the high-tech industry.
For iTunes fans with no present plans to fly and a huge bucket of loose coins sitting in a bedroom corner, Macworld said the self-service coin counting machines operated by Coinstar can turn that change into an eCertificate that can be used to make iTunes purchases.