Blockchain experiments for Air NZ

Air New Zealand is the latest travel industry participant to announce that it’s looking at the possible impacts that “blockchain” technology could have on its business. Blockchain, best known as the technological basis for internet currencies like Bitcoin, also has wide applications wherever transactions need to be stored, verified and processed, and the carrier is partnering with Swiss travel platform Winding Tree which is said to be a “decentralised alternative to the current travel distribution landscape”.

Air NZ chief digital officer Avi Golan said blockchain is being used globally to build “encrypted, shared platforms, providing a secure and efficient way to track the exchange of goods or information”. He said blockchain applications currently under consideration by Air NZ include cargo and baggage tracking, retail, distribution and loyalty program opportunities. “With its built-in efficiency and security, blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel, paving the way for new business models and collaboration,” he said.

Golan said that while Air NZ was still exploring its benefits, blockchain may be able to offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside its current channels. “In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information,” he added.

Winding Tree, which has also recently announced a partnership with Lufthansa, aims to provide a business-to-business marketplace powering blockchain-based travel booking transactions. The company’s founder and CEO, Maksim Izmaylov, said “we are very excited to be partnering with Air New Zealand, as it’s an important step in bringing blockchain technology to the travel industry and creating opportunity for innovation”. He said the availability of a business-to-business marketplace system powering blockchain-based travel booking transactions meant that startups and companies would be able to gain direct access to travel service providers’ offerings.

Air New Zealand said the Winding Tree partnership reinforces the airline’s “global reputation for innovation and embracing new and emerging technology. Recent Air NZ innovations include its artificial intelligence-backed chatbot Oscar which helps customers with online queries, and the carrier’s experiment with “social robot” Chip, who assisted customers with check-in at Sydney Airport earlier this year. Other travel companies looking at blockchain technology include Webjet, which is undertaking a project to see whether it can use such systems to verify the multiple transactions often involved in wholesale hotel bookings.

 

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