If you haven’t been out in the desert or under a rock (which, to be honest, the best part of travel is disconnecting from the technological hubbub of daily life), you’ve been bombarded with the roller coaster ride and fever of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Maybe you don’t understand it, maybe you mined it in 2010, or maybe you just want an interesting form of currency to add to your trading arsenal, Bitcoin is here to stay in the travel business, and now is the time to pay attention.
Why is Bitcoin such an appealing choice for travel brands? Mainly, because of its global applicability. No government or entity owns Bitcoin and, despite its volatile swings during the trading hours, it has shown itself as a promising currency, increasing in legitimacy daily.
A few smart and forward-thinking airlines are already accepting bitcoin, with many more to come in 2018 as the currency gains popularity.
Leading the way in the world as the first airline to begin accepting Bitcoin in 2014 is airBaltic, Latvia’s national airline. Their success with Bitcoin is only set to grow, as they summarize their experience for us:
“This year, the number of customers has grown dynamically. With Bitcoin, the number of trips has grown by two thirds, while the ticket price sold is even two and a half times higher. Over the last three years, over 750 customers have used this service to make one or more bookings,” airBaltic explained to Internationelle.
“The introduction of Bitcoin payments is part of airBaltic’s innovative customer service approach, and airBaltic continues to offer this payment tool to its customers. Ticket prices on the website are calculated in euros. When airBaltic clients choose to pay for a reservation with Bitcoin, its currency is calculated in euro based on the current exchange rate.”
LOT Polish Airlines
Not long after airBaltic began its glorious journey into the world of cryptocurrency, LOT Polish Airlines took the leap as well. In 2015, LOT began selling tickets that could be purchased with Bitcoin, albeit through a third party.
According to a press release, the ticket price is calculated in the standard currency selected by the passenger. Only at the last stage of the booking process, i.e. at the payment stage, will the PSP platform convert the purchase price into Bitcoins. After approval of the amount and clicking the “purchase“ button, the client will be redirected to the Bitcoin wallet, and the transaction will be finalized. The client will be all the time on the PSP platform.
LOT does not conduct transactions in Bitcoins, but in the currency used in the market of purchase (e.g. Poland – PLN; Germany – EUR; USA – USD). PSP is responsible for conversion and settlements of the transaction with LOT.
As Executive Director Jiri Marek explained: “Many of our customers are shopping online, including flights. It is only a matter of time before virtual currency payments will become as popular as credit card use nowadays. We saw this potential.”
Mexico’s TAR Airlines began accepting Bitcoin for payment in 2015, as the first Latin American airline to do so. According to CoinDesk, the airline can accept payments in the digital currency following a partnership between Openpay – a Mexico-based payment service provider – and payment processor BitPay.
In 2017, Peach Airlines, Japan’s low cost carrier, announced its intention to be the first Japanese airline company to accept Bitcoins as payment. In May, the company announced that, by the end of December 2017, they would be introducing direct payment services leveraging Bitcoin. There may still be some hurdles to overcome, however.
Representative Director and CEO Shinichi Inoue offered the following comment: “I hope that Peach’s collaboration with BITPoint Japan will make Bitcoin payments familiar for everyone. We will establish Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Okinawa as model areas when it`s time, work together with local governments, companies and increase the number of participating stores where purchases may be made through Bitcoin payments, work on ideas to prompt Asian customers who visit to Tokyo and Kansai to travel to regional areas as well, and aim to promote regional revitalization.”
Private air travel provider, Surf Air, founded in Silicon Valley, is now accepting Bitcoin as of December 7, 2017.
“Surf Air was built on the idea of disrupting and changing the way the world sources, purchases and accesses air travel so it only makes sense that we would also be on the cutting-edge of accepting disruptive and progressive forms of payment such as Bitcoin and Ethereum,” says Sudhin Shahani, the chief executive officer of Surf Air.
Bitcoin News explains that Surf Air joins the growing list of other airlines offering services for bitcoin like the personal private jet provider Tapjets. The Fargo-based Tapjets started accepting bitcoins through its iPhone app this past summer. Further, the airline provider Privatefly has been accepting bitcoin for flights since 2014. Additionally, news.Bitcoin.com reported this past October that the firm Star Jets now accepts the cryptocurrency as well.
Virgin Galactic has been accepting bitcoin for space travel. That’s right. If you’d invested in bitcoin back in the day, you’d likely be able to have a seat on one of Virgin’s interorbital flights. How cool is that!