Blockchain emerges as a priority technology for research among airlines and airports in 2018

Blockchain is fast emerging as the priority technology for future exploration among airport and airline CIOs globally, attracting the most research attention in 2018. This is according to new research released by SITA.

The 2018 SITA IT Air Transport IT Insights shows that blockchain offers multiple use cases ranging from passenger identification to ticketing, asset tracking and managing frequent flyers programs, all of which help the various stakeholders in the industry work better together.

SITA Lab Director Gustavo Pina said: “The biggest obstacles standing in the way of a seamless passenger journey and truly efficient air travel, are the siloed processes across the many stakeholders, including airlines, airports, ground handlers and control authorities. They act as significant speed bumps at every step of the way. By collaborating as a single industry, we can smooth that journey and blockchain is one of the technologies that has the potential to make that possible. This explains the industry’s significant interest in it.”

One of the key benefits of blockchain technology is the ability to have multi-enterprise applications. These work across multiple organizations locking data immutably into the blockchain rather than having individual applications running separately and exchanging data on a case-by-case basis. This is how this technology can provide a ‘single source of truth’ to all stakeholders.

Today, 59% of airlines have pilot or research programs planned around blockchain for implementation by 2021, which is up from 42% last year. Similarly, airports also continue to experiment with blockchain with 34% planning R&D projects by 2021. The most commonly expected use of blockchain for both airlines and airports is to streamline the passenger identification process with 40% of airlines and 36% of airports saying this would be a major benefit.

The results come just days after Air France-KLM and Winding Tree have announced a new partnership to develop Blockchain technology in the travel industry. The aim of this new agreement is to provide, via Blockchain technology, a more advantageous travel offer for customers which is more profitable for suppliers, in particular by reducing the number of intermediaries. Thanks to Winding Tree’s BtoB platform, users, and in particular companies and start-ups, will benefit from a wide range of offers (flights, hotels etc.) and will be able to offer travel solutions which are adapted to their customers’ needs.

While the focus in the industry is predominately on passenger identity management, both airlines and airports also see that blockchain could have major benefits across several other use cases. According to SITA, airlines have stated they expected blockchain technology to provide benefits in the roll out of passenger tokens for frequent flyer programs (34%) and e-tickets (31%). Airport CIOs have item custody change tracking (such as baggage) (28%) and operational efficiency (24%) as areas that have potential benefits.