Ir­ish startup us­ing blockchain to com­pen­sate air­line pas­sen­gers

Trava­coin seeks €1.5m in fund­ing to turn its prod­uct into fully work­ing so­lu­tion

The Irish Times - Business - - TECHNOLOGY - CHAR­LIE TAY­LOR

An Ir­ish startup is us­ing blockchain tech­nol­ogy to en­sure air­line pas­sen­gers are bet­ter in­formed and im­me­di­ately get com­pen­sa­tion or a re­fund when flights are de­layed or can­celled.

Trava­coin, a pay­ments com­pany founded by avi­a­tion in­dus­try vet­eran Brian Whe­lan, is look­ing to raise up to €1.5 mil­lion in fund­ing to turn its min­i­mum vi­able prod­uct into a fully work­ing so­lu­tion that would al­low air­lines to pay out dig­i­tal to­kens to af­fected pas­sen­gers in the event of dis­rup­tion.

The hope is that the new mo­bile app would be a win-win for every­one associated with pas­sen­gers get­ting timely in­for­ma­tion and com­pen­sa­tion straight away, air­lines es­cap­ing the bad pub­lic­ity that usu­ally comes when flights are dis­rupted, and air­ports, ho­tels and re­tail­ers all gain­ing as trav­ellers opt to spend the to­kens lo­cally.

Both good and bad news

“Air­lines could con­tact pas­sen­gers and in­form them that they have both good and bad news,” Mr Whe­lan told The

Ir­ish Times. “The bad news is the flight is de­layed for a few hours, but the good news is that we’re go­ing to give you a cou­ple of hun­dred eu­ros in to­kens right now.

“Fur­ther­more, they could also be of­fered dis­counts by other part­ners to en­cour­age them to spend those to­kens in or around the air­port.”

Trava­coin, which is based at No­vaUCD and is a re­cip­i­ent of grant fund­ing from En­ter­prise Ire­land, is cur­rently in talks with a num­ber of big-name air­lines, air­ports, high-pro­file for­eign ex­change-fo­cused com­pa­nies, and other in­ter­ested par­ties over the so­lu­tion, which would be based on blockchain tech­nol­ogy.

Mr Whe­lan spent a decade work­ing as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant to the Ir­ish avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor be­fore set­ting up his own on­line ser­vice, Air­taxback, to help pas­sen­gers re­cover un­used taxes, fees and charges aris­ing from missed flights.

Through that busi­ness, he later joined forces with, a ser­vice that re­cov­ers com­pen­sa­tion for pas­sen­gers whose flights have been de­layed or can­celled.

He is the first to ac­knowl­edge that there will likely be heavy cyn­i­cism from pas­sen­gers re­gard­ing the will­ing­ness of car­ri­ers to pay out com­pen­sa­tion.

“Air­lines have tended to be hugely re­sis­tant to com­pen­sat­ing customers but that mind­set has be­gun to change,” said Mr Whe­lan.

‘In­formed about their rights’

“This is partly be­cause of the power of so­cial me­dia but even more im­por­tantly be­cause con­sumers are more in­formed about their rights.”

Mr Whe­lan’s busi­ness idea re­ceived a gong at the Pas­sen­ger In­no­va­tion Awards at the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) World Pas­sen­ger Sym­po­sium in Dubai in Oc­to­ber 2016.

“Our sell­ing point for would-be in­vestors is that this busi­ness plan works not just for flight dis­rup­tion but far be­yond this,” he added.

Mr Whe­lan es­ti­mates Trava­coin could be up and run­ning within six months if it can get fund­ing, al­though he ad­mits that to re­ally take off, he needs a crit­i­cal mass of air­lines to come on board.

‘Air­lines have tended to be hugely re­sis­tant to com­pen­sat­ing customers but that mind­set has be­gun to change’

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