Hahn Air, the Germany-based interline distribution
specialist that also runs a tiny airline, has flown what it says are the first passengers
in the world whose tickets were enabled by blockchain.
"Our goal is to investigate and monitor the opportunities
this technology holds for travel distribution, even if widespread acceptance is
still a vision of the future," said Frederick Nowotny, Hahn's head of sales
The booking technology was enabled by Winding Tree, a travel
distribution blockchain specialist.
Nowotny, Winding Tree founder Maksim Izmaylov and Winding
Tree CIO Davide Montali flew Monday with their blockchain-enabled tickets on Hahn’s
scheduled Dusseldorf-Luxmebourg flight. Though the three men were clearly not
random passengers who booked a flight, Hahn says the booking was handled as it
would be in a more random scenario.
"It was not a simulation," said Jorg Troester, Hahn's head of
corporate strategy, industry and government affairs. "It was really a
reservation that happened in the blockchain environment. We wanted to show it
was possible to do."
Blockchain is an open-source technology that provides more
transparency than traditional proprietary technologies. The technology, which
is the basis for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, has also proven to be
Hahn Air believes the use of blockchain in booking air would
reduce costs by allowing market participants to directly interact with each
other. In addition, the use of blockchain holds the promise of increasing
transparency and reducing disputes, since transactions are stored in a
centralized ledger rather than siloed off by the parties.
Some industry experts, including travel technology analyst
Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Reserarch Group, say that it is too early to
know whether blockchain will live up to its potential at it relates to travel
distribution. But Harteveldt also said that Hahn’s Monday announcement indicates
that such potential exists.
"What intrigues me about blockchain is its potential to be
used for 'smart contracts' between travel sellers and their customers," he
wrote in an email. "For example, if a client has her travel agent purchase
checked bags or "fast track" security as part of her itinerary, blockchain can
help the agent confirm that the product was delivered to the traveler and used."
Troester said that for now, Hahn Air has no plans to issue
more tickets via blockchain technology.
"It was important to show, yes, this is possible in the
blockchain environment. From here, we will see where this journey will take us
in the industry," he said.