Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - INBOX YOUR LETTERS -

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

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