Air New Zealand is partnering with Winding Tree, a Swiss based startup — registered in the Virgin Islands — that is using blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency to eliminate intermediaries in air travel and hotel bookings.
Air New Zealand says it is looking at a number of potential use cases for the distributed ledger technology including cargo and baggage tracking, retail, distribution and loyalty programme opportunities. However its announcement made no mention of the cryptocurrency that underpins the system.
Chief digital officer Avi Golan said blockchain had the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel, paving the way for new business models and collaboration.
“While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels,” he said. “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 CDO, Maksim Izmaylov described Winding Tree as 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.
Lufthansa a Winding Tree investor
Air New Zealand’s move follows German airline Lufthansa forming a partnership with Winding Tree in October, and investing in the company via its cryptocurrency.
Winding Tree uses its own Líf cryptocurrency tokens for transactions. It describes these as being compatible with the ERC20 token of the Ethereum cryptocurrency but says they enable travel companies to send necessary information within transactions.
“Líf tokens will have three additional methods, compared to the basic ERC20 token, through which the token holder is be able to send value, data, and/or execute a function on those transfers,” according to Winding Tree.
“This brings extra value and use cases to the token, allowing companies to design more complex and tailored applications on our platform.”
Lufthansa has taken an unspecified number of Winding Tree’s Líf tokens in its presale offering. An initial coin offering of Lífs was due to take place on 1 November but has been postponed until 1 February 2018 after the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority question the legality of the offering.