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 engineering. 

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 exceptionally secure.

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.

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