Air Canada is in talks with Blockskye and Winding Tree about ways to use their blockchain technologies in distribution, corporate contracts and settlement. Announced in late October, the latter relationship would have the airline connecting its NDC-compliant application programming interface to a public blockchain, according to Air Canada director of global product distribution Keith Wallis.

It’s all theoretical for the moment. Wallis said he decided it was important to publicly support blockchain to enhance its credibility.

Air Canada director of global product distribution Keith Wallis

“I’m very close to our joint-venture colleagues at United and Lufthansa,” said Wallis. “Lufthansa was a big supporter early on. Some other airlines have put their toe in the water. I’ve always been intrigued. I like the idea of an open network where access is free and free market rules apply. No one is setting fees. You come and get what you need, and just pay the cost of the network. It’s safe and secure. This struck me as a great opportunity to disrupt the market and the market needs a bit of disrupting.

“No disrespect to the incumbents, but we have a distribution network not set up to foster innovation,” Wallis added. “After everyone takes some profit, the money in the market is 100 percent spent on customer and user acquisition and retention. There’s no money left over for research and development.”

Wallis’ excitement about the potential does not have him believing “it will be here next month.” Winding Tree is “at the very beginning of its journey,” said Wallis.

Air Canada is not investing in either player; nor is it buying Winding Tree’s cryptocurrency.

Wallis acknowledged that blockchain transactions were too slow for many functions in airline distribution, but said he expected it to speed up over time.

“The bigger barriers are knowledge, expertise and confidence,” he said. “People are risk-averse. They want the other guy to go first.”

Blockskye confirmed the talks. Winding Tree officials did not respond to a request for information.

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