AirBaltic CEO Touts Cryptocurrency Experiments, Predicts NFT Airline Tickets – PCMag

AirBaltic CEO Touts Cryptocurrency Experiments, Predicts NFT Airline Tickets – PCMag

Blockchain Crypto Market Technology
April 30, 2022 by Coinvasity
18
The crypto-curious carrier’s CEO makes a pitch for tokenizing core airline functions, but Martin Gauss' vision for the future of air travel leaves many questions unanswered.RIGA, Latvia—Doing business in virtual currencies is nothing new to airlines. But even the complex market of frequent-flier miles is an order of magnitude simpler than rebuilding such core operations
wp-header-logo-83.png

The crypto-curious carrier’s CEO makes a pitch for tokenizing core airline functions, but Martin Gauss' vision for the future of air travel leaves many questions unanswered.
RIGA, Latvia—Doing business in virtual currencies is nothing new to airlines. But even the complex market of frequent-flier miles is an order of magnitude simpler than rebuilding such core operations as ticketing on cryptocurrency technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In an onstage interview at the TechChill 2022 conference here, the chief executive of an avowedly crypto-curious airline unintentionally emphasized that difficulty more than once. 
“The future is definitely Web 3.0,” said Martin Gauss, CEO and president of airBaltic.
Back in 2014, the Riga-based carrier started accepting customer payments in Bitcoin. Last spring, it began selling small sets of NFTs highlighting cities in Latvia, whose government owns 97% of the firm. And in March, airBaltic announced that it would follow up that “City Collection” series by minting 10,000 “Planies” NFTs that would include benefits for its frequent-flier program members “including loyalty points, vouchers and other surprising privileges.”
Gauss pitched these experiments as ways to increase customer engagement. “We cannot do it unless we show a business case that there is more money coming out than invested in it,” he told moderator Krišs Pujāts, CTO of Gravity Team.
But the airline’s own customer research has shown minimal awareness of the NFT concept, Gauss said later. Among 14,000 people who responded to a survey of its 600,000-odd frequent-flier program, only 1% of Latvian speakers said they knew what an NFT was, while 6% of English speakers answered affirmatively.
After the Planies announcement, travel journalist and airline consultant Seth Miller inspected sales of the earlier NFT collections on the OpenSea marketplace and estimated that airBaltic had sold less than half of the 190 minted, with a total portfolio value of just over $11,000.
Gauss also suggested, without much elaboration, that airBaltic would move its loyalty program to a cryptocurrency foundation: ”We want to be leading in the way of tokenizing the frequent-flier program,” he said.
And, he added, plane tickets themselves could benefit from a similar upgrade, saying “maybe airline tickets can be NFTs.” 
This, too, left questions unanswered. Gauss predicted that a tokenized ticket would have a smaller carbon footprint than one issued today. But he did not explain how the computational work needed to write transactions into a blockchain ledger would use less power than processing a credit-card transaction, saving the purchase in a database, and emailing a boarding-pass PDF. 
He suggested that this would yield a system with greater data integrity, “where you can prove that this is the owner of the ticket, this is how it’s changed.” But airlines must collect detailed passenger information for every purchase; this isn’t an anonymized market that might benefit from the crypto world’s self-sovereign identity possibilities.
Even airBaltic’s welcome of cryptocurrency payments has its limits, Gauss noted. “We do not hold Bitcoin,” he said. “The only way for us to do it today is to exchange it immediately into euros.” 
(Disclosure: I moderated a panel at TechChill, with the organizers covering my airfare and hotel.)
Sign up for What’s New Now to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every morning.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!
Advertisement
Rob Pegoraro writes about interesting problems and possibilities in computers, gadgets, apps, services, telecom, and other things that beep or blink. He’s covered such developments as the evolution of the cell phone from 1G to 5G, the fall and rise of Apple, Google’s growth from obscure Yahoo rival to verb status, and the transformation of social media from CompuServe forums to Facebook’s billions of users. Pegoraro has met most of the founders of the internet and once received a single-word email reply from Steve Jobs.
PCMag.com is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.
© 1996-2022 Ziff Davis. PCMag Digital Group
PCMag, PCMag.com and PC Magazine are among the federally registered trademarks of Ziff Davis and may not be used by third parties without explicit permission. The display of third-party trademarks and trade names on this site does not necessarily indicate any affiliation or the endorsement of PCMag. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product or service, we may be paid a fee by that merchant.

source

Add a comment