This Startup Uses Blockchain To Automate Compensations When An Airline Owes You Money
No matter how much we rely on machines and technology to make us efficient, even in our travels, stuff happens.
Flights are delayed, luggage and pets get lost — or worse — and airline customers need to be compensated. It can be a long, drawn-out process that sometimes makes the airline-customer relationship an adversarial one.
Tech founders Saritta Hines and Blair White have come up with a blockchain solution to help improve customer experience and efficiency between airlines and their customers. They say their company, TrustaBit, can help provide compensation immediately, including issuing vouchers when flights are delayed.
When Microsoft put out a call for business owners and entrepreneurs to participate in a major advertising campaign, TrustaBit applied and was chosen for the campaign. You can watch a preview of the ad here.
We believe that (Microsoft) saw something unique in TrustaBit and recognized the value in our project. The response has been amazing.” — Saritta Hines, co-founder of TrustaBit
If you traveled last year on one of the U.S. airlines, you might have thought you were imagining an increase in delayed or canceled flights on the monitors in the airport.
You were not. Around 20 percent of the scheduled flights was canceled or delayed, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (Aren’t you glad these things are being tracked electronically?)
Complaints about airline service jumped 70 percent between March and April of 2017.
Of course, many of the complaints did not have to do with delayed or canceled flights, but they also included overselling flights, mishandled baggage, treatment of passengers, and animals that died, were injured or lost.
Almost all (92 percent) of the 4,000-plus travelers surveyed by Airfarewatchdog agree that today’s air-travel experience leaves a lot to be desired.
Many of these complaints can’t be avoided and the airline more than likely won’t care about your thoughts on late arrivals and bad weather. However, there are areas where airline companies can do better at customer service.
When passengers need to be compensated by an airline, most must contact the airline directly and complete a form to see if it will compensate them for inconvenience or lost possessions and time. The customer has to wait and see how much the airline feels the complaint is worth — or if it is even valid.
TrustaBit founder and CEO Hines is a data analytics expert who has led projects for Cymer, Allergan, Bank of Montreal, Novartis and Dow AgroSciences. She has helped businesses streamline the delivery of products and services to customers through smart contracts.
Hines talked to Moguldom about how she came up with the idea for TrustaBit, and how Microsoft featured the company in a campaign.
Moguldom: What gave you the idea for TrustaBit?
Saritta Hines: In the spring of 2017, my 7-year-old daughter and I built an Ethereum mining rig together. It was a great project, but once the rig was built, there was nothing more to do — it just made loud noises and heated up the house! I wanted to understand more about the underlying technology of Ethereum. This is what spawned my interest in blockchain. I began reading anything I could find tied to blockchain technology, but it was an audiobook that piqued my interest in enterprise applications.
TrustaBit co-founder, Blair White, and I sat in my living room one afternoon, brainstorming blockchain applications for different industries, from fintech to escrow. When the issue of flight delays came up, we knew that this was a critical flaw in the travel industry that somehow, we have come to accept. Delayed flights have been such a pain point for us and so many other travelers in both business and personal capacities, yet there was no seamless solution on the market. It didn’t take long for us to realize that this was a solution we needed to create. That was the beginning of TrustaBit.
Moguldom: Do you know of any other companies doing this?
Saritta Hines: There are companies like TrustaBit, but none that match our solution. Unlike other companies in the market, TrustaBit works directly with airlines to provide an integrated solution, rather than facilitating a “back-and-forth” conversation. (Other) customer-rights companies function as agents, charging 25 percent of the total compensation owed to the passenger just to process their claims. This process is still done manually, which leaves room for human error and further delays. By using blockchain technology to automate the compensation process and Hyperledger Fabric to provide a secured, shared ledger that is updated and validated in real time, our TAB protocol will ultimately render these companies obsolete. We plan to work directly with the airlines, keeping traveler satisfaction as a top priority — that is the TrustaBit difference.
Moguldom: How far away are you from going to market?
Saritta Hines: We have a demo available now and estimate a 12-week timeline for the completion of our MVP (minimum viable product).
Moguldom: How do you think travelers will react to the app?
Saritta Hines: We think travelers will react extremely well. Issues caused by flight delays and cancelations are a major pain point for business, domestic and international travelers. TrustaBit is creating a safe, secure and automatic solution.
Moguldom: Have you received any responses from the airline companies? If so, which ones?
Saritta Hines: We cannot name names for legal reasons but I can say that we have been in communication with a few top-tier airlines in hopes of securing partnership.
Moguldom: Are you bootstrapping the company or do you have investors?
Saritta Hines: We are currently bootstrapped, but recently launched our StartEngine campaign and are accepting pre-ICO investments for a limited time.
Moguldom: How did Microsoft learn about your company?
Saritta Hines: I reached out in response to a call for business owners and entrepreneurs. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never heard of a DApp (decentralized application) being represented by a Fortune 500 company in a major ad campaign, plus a company like Microsoft would have their choice of applicants. A few days later, I received an email saying Microsoft had selected TrustaBit for the gig.
Moguldom: What has been the response to the video?
Saritta Hines: The team and I were stoked! We believe that they saw something unique in TrustaBit and recognized the value in our project. The response has been amazing! We are so grateful for the support.
Moguldom: Will your company continue to look towards improving other areas of travel or pivot to other industries in the future?
Saritta Hines: We do hope to use blockchain technology to improve other areas of travel, such as flight insurance.