Can Blockchain Improve Airline Safety?

“You can’t have a mid-life crisis in the airline industry because every day is a crisis.”Herb Kelleher

We are well into summer, and people everywhere are traveling to their favorite vacation spot. Whether they are traveling on road trips by car, or they are flying to world destinations, they are all in need of a number of services from hotel and camping reservations, to airline and hotel reservations.  Travelers will need to book their reservations from a booking agent, or more likely, from any one of the online booking services, and of course, when traveling to a world destination—they will need to exchange currency into local currencies.

Forbes  suggests the “travel industry is uniquely suited to benefit from blockchain”. With all the services involved, there is a need to collaborate in booking a place to stay,

Blockchain for the Airline Industry

When it comes to traveling, perhaps the most involved method is by flight. To be sure, there is much to consider for the entire travel industry. Blockchain technology may offer use case solutions to increase safety, efficiency, and to reduce costs.

Olivier Bouffault, et. al., (Bouffault ) in Boston Consulting Group identifies three critical areas blockchain opportunities for the airline industry.

First—the industry has an involved ecosystem where they operate in a network of third party intermediaries where they need to know or trust one another.

Secondly, multiple parties must share data. Third party entities have a need to engage in contractual transactions, where they may need to add to, or retrieve data from a number of database systems.

The third opportunity for the airline industry identified by Bouffault, involves data security. As airlines record all transactions, records, and contracts in a secure and permanent way—the data needs to be traceable and available to be audited.

Running an Airline

Running an airline is a complex and involved operation from aircraft maintenance, to managing passengers from booking to on-boarding and keeping track of their luggage. Sam Mire (Disruptor Daily) identified eight use cases for blockchain in the airline industry. In this article, I have focused on the airline operational side.

Maintenance

Maintenance cost for an airline includes everything from hanger costs, to inspections for commercial airlines. It includes operational costs from fuel, parts, insurance, and more.

Travel demands are running at capacity at local and regional airports—resulting in flights that are departing and arriving on a constant basis. The demand for inspections and maintenance is also running at capacity.  It’s no wonder that nearly every traveler has experienced delays at the airport at some point.

Mire writes that industry leaders are in the process of developing systems to use blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) in a way to monitor maintenance issues. The objective is for the carrier to be able to identify, and then act on any maintenance issue—before it becomes an issue at the gate. Moreover, it can provide connected records that maintenance-related departments can rely on. These uses could cut down on the one thing that gives airlines and passengers the most consistent trouble: delays.

Image Source: mv.helsinki.fi The many factors as customers we do not put into account when we look for the cheapest route from our departure to our arrival destination, when choosing aviation as our method of transport.

 Security

Most people are not afraid to fly. They get it. It is the safest way to travel. However, despite all the safety controls and redundancies to ensure passenger safety, accidents do continue to occur. While, hijackings and sabotage are quite rare on a global basis—nonetheless, airlines must remain vigilant to prevent future occurrence.

Mire points out that in 2017, 59 people died as a result of accidents or malfunctions. A very small number compared to the massive volume of daily flights on a global scale. Any loss of life is unacceptable. Blockchain has the ability for numerous parties involved in maintenance—from suppliers to maintenance managers overseeing scheduled aircraft maintenance—to access the ledger, regardless of location.

A decentralized system will be able to establish a system of checks and balances in a way that regulate the industry that may otherwise be tempted to cut corners in order to save money.

Not only is maintenance a concern, but so too is the ability to track all souls on board. Mire reminded the reader that when the Malaysian Airlines disappeared in March of 2014, it became one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. Given the 239 souls lost in this tragedy, friends and family members still don’t know what happened.

Could blockchain’s ability to trace flight data have helped in the investigation of a downed aircraft? Perhaps, it can assist in a need to investigate a hijacking in progress. Data from flight manifests, transfers, checked-in luggage, flight path, and the like—all have varying degrees of importance.

All data points can assist investigators. Having immediate and accurate access to the data can save time. It allows the airline to easily track luggage more efficiently. And information such as who was on a flight, where they sat, and where the flight was headed, including transfers can help solve the mysteries in the event of a hijack or disappearance of an aircraft.

Regardless of the type data, remotely securing flight-related data via blockchain distributed ledger record can be an added measure of security to the centralized systems of today.

Conclusion

Flying across the United States has always been enjoyable. Some flights have been long with transfers from Los Angeles to Chicago, on my way to Boston or new York.

While I do not think about my safety, nonetheless, I am glad to know that within the current centralized systems that do exist, have proven to be quite efficient and optimized given the volume of flights per day in the U.S. alone. I can say, that over the 20 plus years of air travel, I have never lost my luggage.

Blockchain is a technology that shows promise in helping the industry meet the growing needs and changing demands on technology. If the industry can provide assurances to the traveling public, we will all be able to sleep better.

 


Sources

Bouffault, Olivier; Burchardi, Kaj; et. al., ” What Could Blockchain Do for Airlines?”, Boston Consulting Group, March 29, 2019.

Mire, Sam, “Blockchain For Aviation: 8 Possible Use Cases”, Disruptor Daily, November 2018.

Petersson, David; “Why The Travel Industry Is Blockchain’s Best Bet”, Forbes, December 2018.

 

 

 

Eric W. is a self-educated ghost writer who for the past seven years has been involved in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Digital advertising sectors as Project Director, Miner, and NRA (Network Resource Application).

Contact Eric

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