As we've previously covered on Kambr Media, Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been one of the latest technologies sweeping through commercial aviation. One of the early pioneers has been airBaltic, which has launched multiple NFT-related projects.
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- How Airlines Can Benefit from NFTicket Sales
Last year, airBaltic became the first airline to issue NFTs when it issued an NFT showcasing an Airbus A220-300 along with its registration and a piece of art from the Latvian city Kuldīga. Since then, airBaltic has issued multiple different NFTs in this series it calls airBaltic City Collection.
Additionally, airBaltic has rolled out an NFT series called Planies. According to airBaltic, Planies are a special cartoon aircraft design collection of 10,000 one-of-a-kind collectibles stored on the Ethereum blockchain.
Holders of Planies collectibles will be able to enjoy various travel-related benefits of the airBaltic Club loyalty programme, including loyalty points, vouchers and other privileges.
We caught up with airBaltic's Web3 Project Lead Arturs Garais to get the lowdown on everything the airline's been doing with NFTs.
For those within our readership who are not familiar can you briefly outline airBaltic's NFT strategy and execution to this point?
Our NFT strategy is quite simple – to improve loyalty systems and experience for customers. Due to this new technology, we can offer more unique benefits to our loyal members and also give them an opportunity to share these benefits with their family, friends or someone else.
"We have already released Planies in a working environment since October 24. More than 3 million points and 120+ business class upgrades have been rewarded to our Planies holders."
For example, business class upgrades that are acquired by holding a Planie and flying 10 times offer the possibility to use these vouchers to upgrade someone else’s flight. This is one of the ways how we can share different flight experiences for people who probably are on the verge of deciding to fly business or economy.
Currently, we have already released Planies in a working environment since October 24. More than 3 million points and 120+ business class upgrades have been rewarded to our Planies holders.
How did airBaltic come up with the idea for its City Collection NFTS and its Planies NFTs?
Back in 2021, airBaltic released its first NFT collection – the City Collection. It was the first aviation-related NFT released in history that features unique Latvian cities, voted by Latvian people. The idea behind it is to show off places to visit in Latvia, create unique collector’s pieces and provide future technical possibilities once someone visits these cities.
Planies, on the other hand, came from the successful launch of City Collection. Planies already come with opportunities connected to our loyalty system – transferable, passive, active and unique experiences.
What has been the response from airBaltic customers and the travel industry at large to these NFTs thus far?
At aviation conferences and events where we have presented Planies, we have had loads of positive comments from industry peers on innovating with NFTs, especially in the loyalty field where systems need innovation. Customer feedback has also been positive as this program really allows frequent flyers to enjoy even more benefits than before.
Do you collaborate or share ideas with your industry peers? For instance, Qantas is also using NFTs to boost its loyalty program.
Currently, we do not hold any collaborations with any other peers, but we do attend aviation-related conferences and events to share our experience on Planies development and what future it holds for the collection.
Does airBaltic work with any partners in this space? For instance, TravelX has launched an NFT ticket product.
TravelX's business principles are different from airBaltic as they do not sell tickets to their flights, but are more of a middleman solution for easier ticketing, rebookings and access. Currently, this kind of concept is not available in airBaltic due to business requirements.
With new trends and technologies, there are a lot of ups and downs in terms of value and buzz. How does airBaltic ride these waves?
This space is moving faster than anything I have seen.
"Buzz is a hit-or-miss type of thing as it really comes down to the utility that we focus on rather than headlining without any real use cases."
We have grown larger in our Web3 department to keep up with most of the things that are happening in this space to see if there is something we can implement in the future or see what to do better or not at all.
Buzz, though, is a hit-or-miss type of thing as it really comes down to the utility that we focus on rather than headlining without any real use cases.
Can you share any future plans airBaltic has for its NFTs?
We still have to work on Planies as a new roadmap is coming this year that will contain information on the following years so people can see what to expect from us.
City Collection will also not be forgotten, even though it is more of a collector’s item. We have also used NFTs for Proof of Attendance in our in-house events and there are also plans to use them as gifts for our employee anniversaries and finished internal development and leadership courses.
Has airBaltic considered doing anything within the metaverse?
Currently, we do not have any specific ideas on how we could be using it, but seeing how the metaverse is growing and improving, it is a topic to discuss.
What other Web3-related projects does airBaltic have on the horizon?
A tokenized loyalty program is one of our key goals. That would provide more use cases for both the company and customers. Currently, it is still in the concept stage as it needs to be developed, considering future regulations, payment structures as loyalty points would become tokens.
As it would be the first loyalty program released fully working on the blockchain, it is crucial that we take our time to produce it correctly.
How do you think Web3 and the travel industry will converge in the future?
The future will cover new traveling principles. One of them would be transferable and multifunctional loyalty systems that work with various partners. Another one would be automatic self-ID verification that would provide more trust in customer data protection if no other parties are involved and this is where smart contracts come into play.
"The future will cover new traveling principles. One of them would be transferable and multifunctional loyalty systems that work with various partners."
Also, experience through the airport can be improved with one device documentation, if I may call it that. This means that you would have the possibility to travel without your passport, ticket and other documentation in your hand but all in your (digital) wallets as digital IDs and tickets.