EY trials direct blockchain booking with American Airlines

29 November 2021 Consulting.us 2 min. read

Big Four firm EY is trialing a new blockchain platform that allows corporate buyers to book directly with American Airlines, according to a report from travel industry publication Skift.

American Airlines on November 16 announced a partnership with Winding Tree, an Ethereum-based decentralized travel marketplace launched in 2017 that has the potential to cut out travel agency and global distribution system middlemen.

Travel agents get their flight data from global distribution systems such as Amadeus and Sabre, which have real-time inventory technology. Winding Tree’s platform would enable airlines to transmit inventory data to customers directly.

“We're always looking for innovative ways to give our customers access to American's content in the way that's most convenient for them," Neil Geurin, managing director for digital and distribution at American, said.

EY trials direct blockchain booking with American Airlines

EY will test drive the platform with American, anonymous sources told Skift. The proof of concept will focus on leisure bookings, but the consultancy may eventually eye an extension to business travel in small markets.

“Would they do it on the London to New York route? Who knows,” an industry source told Skift. “But that would be a game changer if that happens because you are seriously impacting the travel agency and global distribution systems.”

Consultants are among the largest consumers of business travel flights. EY spent $346.8 million on domestic US flights in 2019, according to Business Travel News.

The pandemic, however, cut the bottom out of business travel, with bookings falling by 85% in 2020 and struggling to rebound in comparison to leisure travel. It’s harder to Zoom a vacation than a client meeting, after all.

The "new normal" means less business travel, but where the level stabilizes remains to be seen. Emerging variants and continuous waves of Covid-19 don’t help the outlook. Consulting firms’ sustainability commitments also make explicit pledges to cut down on air travel – the largest chunk of their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. 

In such a bleak scenario, airlines need to optimize their operations as much as possible. Winding Tree says its blockchain platform would make travel cheaper for consumers and more profitable for suppliers.