Airline blockchain adoption stuck on loyalty programs
Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and AirAsia all say they are trialing blockchain but so far applications have been restricted to reward programs
Over the past two years the world has gone blockchain crazy and it has seemed at times that airlines were going to get swept up in the trend as well. But to date, any actual application in Asia has been confined to loyalty programs.
Singapore Airlines announced in February that its KrisFlyer frequent-flyer program would launch a blockchain-based wallet, developed by KPMG Digital Village and Microsoft, that would be focused on retail partners in Singapore. “It is in line with our recently unveiled Digital Innovation Blueprint, under which we aim to be the world’s leading digital airline,” Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said at the time.
In March, AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said he was planning on trialing a crypto-currency platform called BigCoin, plus considering an ICO as well. When Asia Times asked about the current status, AirAsia Group Communications said: “The crypto-currency plan is still being developed so we don’t have much to say about it as yet.”
Cathay Pacific meanwhile, partnered Accenture to launch its blockchain-based Asia Miles rewards campaign, which it says is at the heart of a new platform and mobile application surrounding dining.
“We have a big network of partners, merchants, and members, there are times that we need to find a better way to run our operations and blockchain may help smooth out back-office operations and customer experience,” said Michael Yung, Head of Digital Product and Technology, Asia Miles, in a phone interview.
Researching blockchain and proof of concept tests, along with smart contract initiatives, the team found that Asia Miles would benefit from the new technology, and launched its dining campaign in May.
“Previously, there were technologies that could do similar things, but not with the same performance and flexibility, and triggered in real time yet orchestrated in different ways,” says Yung. Blockchain capabilities, for example, mean points can be rewarded the next day, benefiting the user and eliminating time-consuming back-office admin. “We are exploring to see whether similar concepts would benefit, but we are not using blockchain as a crypto-currency to replace our miles,” Yung added.
When asked about the trend of airlines using blockchain, Yung was cautious, saying that would not be easy to implement. “If you put the reward points to a crypto-currency, that part is easy. The difficult part is how you make those points transactable in a point of sale or retail cashier desk. That would require outside parties to make a lot of changes, and educating users to have specialized wallets. If all these [things] can fall in place, it is a good idea,” Yung said.
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