The national airline of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Airways, has entered into a partnership with a Switzerland-based blockchain startup to provide its internal information systems. It has teamed up with Winding Tree, an open-source travel platform, to explore blockchain technology for distributing products or services without the need for intermediaries or third parties. Etihad is one among the several airlines which have partnered with Winding Tree in the past few years to use distributed ledger technology by eliminating the need for a centralized system or entity. Some of these are Air Canada, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, hotels such as Airport Hotel Basel, Nordic Choice, citizenM Hotel chain, and Swissport aviation services company.
Etihad Airways was set up in July 2003 and is an airline company which is inspired by Emirati values and sets the benchmark not just among other airlines but also against the world’s best hospitality establishments. It seeks and strives to reflect the Arabian hospitality and warmth and also aims to enhance the reputation of Abu Dhabi as a world-class leisure and business destination. The key business divisions of the Etihad group are Etihad airport services, Etihad Aviation Group, Hala Group, Airline Equity Partners, and Etihad Airways Engineering. Etihad Airways is committed to a strategy of collaborative growth.
According to Pedro Anderson, the Chief Operating Officer of Winding Tree, “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.”
Winding Tree is a non-profit which implements blockchain technology and open-source protocols to introduce innovation within the travel industry. It is a business-to-business marketplace which operates on a decentralized platform with the help of the Ethereum blockchain. It will provide logistical support for the distribution system of Etihad Airways. By implementing this system, Etihad Airways will now be able to bypass the third-party operators who currently manage its inventories such as travel itineraries, baggage tracking, and flight times. The Winding Tree platform will allow both corporates and institutions such as airlines and hotels to publish the available inventory directly to those customers.
As told in a phone interview by Tristan Thomas, Etihad’s Director of Digital and Innovation, “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.”
Currently, Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Amadeus and Sabre make use of real-time inventory technology for compiling data regarding rooms and flights for corporate travel bookers or travel agents. Winding Tree, due to its immense ability to manage a wide array of data, counts not only Amadeus and Sabre but also customer-facing websites like Booking.com and Expedia, as its competitors.