Winding Tree has announced a partnership with Air New Zealand to explore how its blockchain technology could help the airline’s distribution, loyalty programme and baggage tracking.
To date blockchain technology, which underpins bitcoin, has been heavily adopted by the financial services industry, but this latest partnership reflects a growing movement in the travel sector, with Lufthansa having already teamed up with the Swiss-based technology specialist.
Lufthansa will look at booking, rebooking, and traveller itinerary information on the blockchain.
Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan said: “While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels.”
The airline hopes customers will be able to benefit from reduced transactional costs, while it will take advantage of the swift and secure sharing of information, he added.
Air New Zealand will invest in Winding Tree’s token sale in January next year, but has not said how much it intends to invest. Token sales, or initial coin offerings, have become a way for start-ups in the blockchain space to rapidly raise funds and without regulatory oversight.
Winding Tree is a decentralised marketplace built on the ethereum blockchain – which experts at World Travel Market London earlier this month said was well suited to the travel industry.
The partnership also comes at a time when airlines are increasingly looking to decrease their reliance on global distribution systems. Lufthansa was one of the first airlines to adopt Iata’s new distribution capability (NDC), and last year introduced a GDS fee, charging €16 per booking, a move that is still being investigated by the European Commission. Meanwhile, British Airways and Iberia introduced a £8 fee to any booking made through a GDS earlier this month.
With potential overlaps with NDC, which aims to simplify the unbundling process of airline ancillaries, Pedro Anderson, co-founder at Winding Tree, told TTG his company "was not here to do what Iata is doing". "Our mission is to help start-ups," he said. "Our main motivation is not to cut out the middleman, it’s to help start-ups. [Winding Tree] is not just another app, or a boardroom with top travel executives. It’s an open source project – anybody can build on to this.
"We are open to working with TMCs, or online agents – anyone can access Winding Tree."
The company has already released a platform for hotels, and plans to do more in the hospitality space, Anderson added.