For the most part, the no-cash policies are not absolute. Regional offshoot carriers, like Delta Connection and United Express flights, still only except cash (though Continentals Express and Connection flights will be credit-only come early 2010). Excepting Continental (whose policy applies to all mainline flights), the policies for the airlines mentioned above are, as of now, limited only to flights within the U.S. and greater North America (Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean) so if youre traveling waaay overseas, your greenbacks are typically still golden. Even Continentals policy isnt entirely all-encompassing, as its China routes are an exception to the credit-only rule. Carriers also still allow cash for on-board duty-free purchases of magazines, cosmetics, and the like.
While a few honorary holdouts are bucking the credit-only trend (US Airways, for instance, has accepted both cash and credit on most mainline flights since January), credit-only cabins in this neck of the world are appearing to become the norm. It seems to be a good idea: flight attendants, who can simply swipe a card through handheld scanning devices instead of digging in their pockets for lumps of change, favor the switch. All-in-all, passengers seem to approve as well. However, the new policies do bring their own set of sticky situations on board. What if a card-less minor is traveling alone and wants to buy a bag of pretzels? Turns out theres no harm trying to persuade an attendant to accept cash, but if that doesnt work, better have plastic in your pocket or youre outta luck.