Air New Zealand is partnering with Swiss company Winding Tree to explore the use of blockchain in its business.
The airline is also investing in the company through a token sale, scheduled for January, according to a Reuters report. Such sales, or initial coin offerings, enable blockchain start-ups to raise funds without regulatory oversight.
According to another report, the tokens would finance the development of an open blockchain digital marketplace to wrest some control from digital incumbents such as online travel agencies and distribution systems.
Air New Zealand chief digital officer, Avi Golan, says the airline is excited by the possibilities of blockchain. Its built-in efficiency and security offer the potential for innovation in travel and could pave 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," Golan says.
"In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information."
Air New Zealand 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.
Winding Tree is developing the world’s first travel marketplace on blockchain to connect suppliers such as airlines and hotels directly to sellers.
Co-founder Pedro Anderson recently described the travel industry as a "centralised mess" with a number of intermediaries holding too much control over every area of travel (see video).
Co-founder and CEO Maksim Izmaylov says Winding Tree 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," he says.
“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."
German carrier Lufthansa has also recently announced a partnership with Winding Tree and a similar investment in the company's Lif cryptocurrency.