By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ national carrier, said on Thursday it has teamed up with open-source travel platform Winding Tree to explore using blockchain to distribute products and services without the need for third parties such as Sabre.
Etihad is one of several airlines and hotels that have partnered with Switzerland-based Winding Tree over the last few years to bypass intermediaries using the distributed ledger technology. Those include Air Canada <AC.TO>, Air France-KLM <AIRF.PA>, and Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, as well as aviation services company Swissport, and hotels such as Nordic Choice, citizenM Hotel chain, and Airport Hotel Basel.
“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,” Tristan Thomas, Etihad’s director of digital and innovation, said in a phone interview.
“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 employ real-time inventory technology to compile data on flights and rooms for travel agents or corporate travel bookers.
Winding Tree’s platform will allow corporates and institutions like airlines and hotels to publish available inventory to those customers directly.
GDS is also used by consumer-facing websites such as Booking.com and Expedia.
While the platform is not aimed at retail consumers, the fact that intermediaries’ fees are being bypassed ultimately means lower costs, Pedro Anderson, Winding Tree’s chief operating officer and co-founder, told Reuters.
“Anybody who has travelled today knows that it’s not the most pleasant experience. The entire process is backwards,” he said.
“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.”
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)