Etihad Airways said on Thursday that it teamed up with open-source travel platform Winding Tree to explore using blockchain to distribute products and services without third parties such as Sabre.
Etihad is one of several airlines and hotels that have linked up with Switzerland-based Winding Tree over the past few years to bypass intermediaries using the distributed ledger technology.
Those include Air Canada, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, 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 silo-ed market dominated by major distribution systems,” said Tristan Thomas, Etihad’s director of digital and innovation.
“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.”
Global distribution systems such as Amadeus and Sabre use 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 such as airlines and hotels to publish available inventory to those customers directly.
Global distribution systems are also used by consumer websites such as Booking.com and Expedia.
While the platform is not aimed at retail users, the fact that intermediaries’ fees are being bypassed ultimately means lower costs, said Pedro Anderson, Winding Tree’s chief operating officer and co-founder.
“Anybody who has travelled today knows that it’s not the most pleasant experience," Mr Anderson said. "The entire process is backwards.
“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.”