Irish startup using blockchain to compensate airline passengers
Travacoin seeks €1.5m in funding to turn its product into fully working solution
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 Airhelp.com, 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’