Recently I went to Paris to attend an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conference on the application of blockchain technology for the common good. Some speakers there predicted that blockchain will change our lives as radically as the internet has, and one deservedly oft-praised application is the so-called smart contract. Such a contract cannot be forged or changed, and compliance can be automatically enforced.
My flight back home was rather delayed, as is often the case with evening flights. Arriving after midnight can cause logistical problems with only expensive solutions. Ticket rates vary, not in the least depending on departure and arrival times. The consumer holds up his end of the deal by paying for the ticket – the airline does not, and renders a service the consumer would have paid less for if only he had known. To balance this, there is EU law, entitling passengers to compensation of up to €600 (US$697).
Unfortunately, as many travellers have experienced, the trouble and time involved in coercing the airline to actually pay up easily exceeds the eventual compensation. Moreover, it recently transpired that airlines tamper with flight times to avoid such claims. For a crazily delayed flight from London to Amsterdam in the summer of 2015, I only received my due compensation – minus legal costs – in late spring 2018. In a blockchain based smart contract – the ticket purchase agreement – a mandatory clause could be included that automatically authorises the payment of a compensation if x number of hours have passed since the planned, non manipulated arrival time and the flight has not yet arrived at its destination. I expect this might really help prevent long delays.
Of course, airlines will not readily accept this shift of what is in effect a burden of proof. Some lobbying will be required. Consider this letter a first effort. Joost de Leeuw, Netherlands