At the beginning of the year, we took a look at what NFTs and the metaverse mean for airlines, and a lot has already happened since then! Therefore, we thought now would be a great time to provide an update on everything that's been going on in the space.

Selling Tickets in New Ways

These emerging technologies have provided new distribution opportunities, giving airlines new ways to sell tickets. Quite possibly the biggest splash has been made by Air Europa and its partnership with block-chain distribution company TravelX. Together, they have released what it is claimed to be the world’s first NFT flight ticket series, called NFTickets.

Travelers who purchase NFTickets will get special access to an Air Europa flight to Miami Beach at the end of November (as well as events and other perks) to coincide with Art Basel.

“We are proud to be the first airline to adopt blockchain technology for inventory management and distribution. We’re excited to see where this could take travel as a whole and how it could improve customer experience,” said Bernardo Botella, global sales director, Air Europa.

According to TravelX, NFTickets function like typical NFTs. When traded, transactions are recorded safely and securely on the blockchain. The traveler simply presents the NFT and a matching flight ticket is issued.

"Air Europa and TravelX have released what it is claimed to be the world’s first NFT flight ticket series, called NFTickets."

“We will blend the best of the traditional NFT, but add real-world application and experience. This provides a better flight ticket that travelers can easily manage and trade from their blockchain wallet, combined with a new kind of collectible art piece," said Facundo Diaz, co-founder, TravelX.

The initial reaction to the project has been very positive. Following the announcement, TravelX and Air Europa held a live auction in Paris and sold their first NFTicket for $1 million.

According to TravelX, this is the most valuable ticket sold in commercial aviation history and the first plane ticket to be minted on the the Algorand blockchain.

Another Spanish carrier looking to leverage these emerging technologies is Vueling. Vueling is set to become the first airline to sell flights in the metaverse. Partnering with metaverse platform Next Earth, sales are expected to commence before the end of the year.

Purchases made in the metaverse will be usable in the real world, giving the airline an additional distribution channel. Travelers will be able to visualize and plan their journeys, including being able to track carbon emissions and book “carbon positive” transportation.

More Airline NFTs Coming to Market

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 a total of ten different NFTs in this series it calls airBaltic City Collection.

Most recently, airBaltic has announced a new 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.

"Qantas was the first airline to announce it would offer loyalty points to the initial buyer of a NFT."

Meanwhile, in March, Qantas became the second commercial airline to adopt NFTs. What makes this move interesting is Qantas was the first airline to announce it would offer loyalty points to the initial buyer of a (Qantas) NFT.

The release is expected to come sometime mid-year, with more details including price to be disclosed later.

Another interesting NFT project is KinectAir, which aims to create the first, decentralized air mobility service. Travelers will unlock access to a network of on-demand flights in personal aircraft by purchasing one of three different levels of NFT passes.

Although NFT adoption is new to aviation and the travel sector as a whole, we're already seeing some trends emerge. In a recent study, TNMT found that NFTs are falling into three use cases for travel.

Those three categories are travel community, airline loyalty and NFT passports. There are already a number of interesting use cases from San Marion's government issued NFT vaccine certificate to FlyCoin's block-chain based airline loyalty and rewards.

Other Airlines Landing in the Metaverse

A number of the world's largest and most influential carriers are looking to leverage the metaverse. While the list is becoming too vast to cover them all, in addition to the Vueling project mentioned above, let's highlight a few exciting projects on the horizon.

Qatar Airways has launched what it is dubbing Qverse, a novel virtual reality (VR) experience for visitors to the airline’s website. Users can now virtually tour and navigate the Premium Check-in area at Hamad International Airport (HIA) and the cabin interior.

Qatar Airways is also the first global airline to introduce a MetaHuman cabin crew, Sama, offering a digital interactive customer experience.

Although details are yet to emerge, Emirates is also entering the metaverse. Last month, the airline unveiled its plans to build "signature brand experiences" in the metaverse, alongside both collectible and utility-based NFTs.

"Qatar Airways is the first global airline to introduce a MetaHuman cabin crew."

The first projects are already underway, with launch anticipated in the coming months. Emirates plans to invest $10 million in the project.

Other airlines looking to get into the metaverse space include Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, while undoubtedly many others jumping onboard in the future.

We're still only scratching the surface with these emerging technologies. Only time will tell what is hype and what will be viable long-term applications.