Tech

Steve Kaaru

Etihad Airways explores blockchain to distribute products, services

Etihad Airways has teamed up with Winding Tree on a platform that seeks to apply blockchain technology to distribute products and services without the need for third parties. The airline, based in the United Arab Emirates, intends to disrupt the market which has been dominated by a few distribution systems such as U.S. global distribution systems (GDS) provider Sabre.

Etihad, considered to be the second largest airline in the UAE, becomes the latest major airline to join the Winding Tree platform, Reuters reported. The Swiss-based startup uses blockchain to offer suppliers new profitable distribution channels. Other companies that use the platform include Europe’s largest airline Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Brussels Airlines.

As CoinGeek reported, Air France-KLM joined the Winding Tree platform in October 2018. The airline described the move as a way to “provide a more advantageous travel offer for customers.”

The Winding Tree platform has extended beyond airlines to include hotels such as Nordic Choice and Airport Hotel Basel; software providers such as eRevMax and Sciant as well as aviation services providers including Swissport.

Tristan Thomas, the director or digital innovation at Etihad told Reuters, “Winding Tree is obviously our distribution (platform) and that’s an opportunity for us to disrupt a traditionally siloed market dominated by major distribution systems. Very few have chosen to disrupt the distribution world and that’s because those are major players with very significant margins that have acted to keep that kind of a closed shop.”

And indeed, the GDS services industry has been dominated by a few players. Sabre has been among the most dominant players. The Texas-based company is the largest GDS services provider for air bookings in the lucrative North American region. Amadeus, a Spanish IT provider for the travel and tourism industries is the other major player in the industry.

The platform will target corporations and institutions, the co-founder Pedro Anderson told Reuters. However, retail customers will enjoy the benefits of reduced costs as the institutions will be able to avoid intermediaries’ fees.

He commented, “Anybody who has traveled today knows that it’s not the most pleasant experience. The entire process is backwards. We have been doing experiments and new solutions on the platform. Ultimately, that benefits the consumer. When there’s innovation, you start to have disruption, you have competition which results in better prices for the consumer.”

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