15below hosted a roundtable at the Aviation Festival Asia this week discussing how to contact more passengers during disruption. Specifically, what you can do when passenger contact details are missing.
It’s a problem that affects airlines all over the world, adding to the operational chaos and causing disproportionate customer experiences – the customer who booked direct gets a notification, but the person in the next seat (who booked through a travel agent) receives…nothing.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, customer experience is often the only factor setting brands apart – So how could airlines take back control of this issue? Could technologies like blockchain provide the answer to missing contact details?
Blockchain was one of the trending technology concepts of 2017. But given that it is most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies – like bitcoin - how many people can say that they truly understand the potential? In this blog, we’ll discuss how blockchain technology naturally fits into the travel ecosystem and could potentially solve the contact details issue for good.
Supply chain provenance
The basic premise here is that “assets” are tracked through the supply chain, so at any point, a user can review the full history of the asset in question. The tamper-proof nature of blockchain means each asset can be audited to ensure they are genuine.
Along with auditors, regulators can easily be given access. This means the same system could be used for customs compliance to safety certificates. This can be done in real time without having to sync between different systems.
This is one of the key uses of blockchain already being used by the likes of Boeing to improve operations. Similarly, Airbus is already a member of the Hyperledger group along with other manufacturers like Daimler, Huawei, and Nokia.
Reference data shared in a business network
This is another key use case of blockchain that could benefit the travel ecosystem. Information suppliers could collaborate and share information without directly revealing data sources – updated information would then be securely re-distributed throughout the whole supply chain.
One place that seems a perfect fit for this is with IATA codes such as airline designators, accounting codes, baggage tag issuer codes or location identifiers. Or sharing sensitive security information at the airport, with “security by design” being the tagline for start-up VChain.
Flight schedules are another key example of how blockchain can benefit the travel industry. If each airline updated a blockchain with their schedule details, GDSs and travel agents could readily access that information without the need to directly share customer contact data - eradicating the need for each supplier to hold their own customer contact records. Instead, contact details are held within a single system that can be accessed by suppliers as and when they need it.
During an IROPS situation, the blockchain would then inform relevant systems and suppliers so they can distribute the information to airports and travellers with relative ease. Airlines could even use smart contracts to automatically release compensation in case of delay, cancellation, or another refund scenario.
SITA and British Airways have led the way here with their FlightChain pilot project. Based on both Ethereum and Hyperledger-Fabric, it has raised some questions about the performance and scalability of current technologies. Other airlines like Lufthansa are also looking to a future involving blockchain, using an Ethereum based solution for their investment in WindingTree.
With these examples, it’s clear to see the potential of blockchain technology within the travel ecosystem. It could disrupt the balance of power between information suppliers (solving the contact details issue once and for all), improve customer experience and increase operational efficiency within travel companies. So where do we take it next?
Written by Neil Chalk, Product Manager, 15below.