Air NZ starts exploring blockchain applications

Air New Zealand has partnered with Swiss travel start-up Winding Tree to explore applications based on blockchain technology.

The airline said last week it was looking at a number of potential use cases for the distributed ledger technology including cargo and baggage tracking, retail, distribution and loyalty programme opportunities.

Blockchain is an encrypted, digital ledger of transactions and is the foundation of virtual currencies like bitcoin. It provides a secure and efficient method of tracking the exchange of goods and information and is predicted to revolutionise industries from banking to retail.

Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan said applications of blockchain were developing rapidly, and the airline is excited by the possibilities.

“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,” said Golan.

Winding Tree is developing the world’s first travel marketplace on blockchain to connect suppliers such as airlines and hotels directly to sellers.

“While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels,” said Golan.

“In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information.”

Winding Tree founder and chief executive Maksim Izmaylov said his company is a decentralised alternative to the current travel distribution landscape.

“With a business-to-business marketplace system powering blockchain-based travel booking transactions, startups and companies will be able to gain direct access to travel service providers’ offerings,” said Izmaylov.

“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.”

Air New Zealand said it had worked with a range of leading technology partners to introduce innovations to enhance the customer experience.

These include its artificial intelligence backed chatbot Oscar, who helps customers with queries online and through the Air New Zealand mobile app, and its experiment with the social robot Chip, who assisted customers with check-in at Sydney Airport earlier this year.

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