MEXICO CITY – Mexican flight attendants now serve fistfuls of salted snacks, carbonated drinks and, for about $5, iPods.
By renting the iconic music and video device to passengers, low-cost airline Volaris has got the jump on U.S giants, such Continental Airlines (CAL), Delta Air Lines Inc. and UAL Corp.'s (UAUA) United Airlines, who have been talking for months about offering iPod seat connections.
"We're the first to use iPods. We like it because no one else has it," said public relations officer Alfonso Collantes.
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Volaris began handing out the 30-gigabyte devices free on February 8, but will soon start charging 50 pesos per flight.
The MP3 players are packed with Mexican TV shows and popular music, but the airline plans to load on U.S. sitcoms and other music genres.
The iPod's are not integrated into seat-back video screens, like the U.S. carriers are planning, but have the advantage of being available now.
"We just went out and bought a bunch of iPods and started giving them out to passengers," said Collantes.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) has sold more than 70 million iPods since their introduction in 2001. The iPod commands a 72 percent share of the U.S. market for MP3 players.
Volaris is owned by billionaire Carlos Slim and media giant Televisa (TV), said in January it will add a dozen new routes and triple revenues this year.
Most Mexicans depend on buses for long-distance transportation, but discount airlines are trying to attract passengers by offering tickets at prices similar to bus fares.