State-owned Latvian air carrier airBaltic said that more than 1,000 clients paid with bitcoin (BTC), “purchasing one or more reservations” since this option was launched in 2014.
“In 2019, on average 15 reservations a month were paid using bitcoin, where each reservation consisted of one or more flights. In line with travel restrictions, in 2020 the amount of reservations paid by bitcoin decreased by almost a half,” a spokesperson of the company told Cryptonews.com.
The company made headlines in 2014 when it said it was the world’s first airline to accept payment for tickets in BTC, enabling crypto users to purchase flights to more than 70 destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, the CIS, and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, as reported yesterday, airBaltic has decided to broaden the range of cryptoassets it accepts as payment, adding support of bitcoin cash (BCH), ethereum (ETH), dogecoin (DOGE), and four USD-pegged stablecoins.
“The cryptocurrency payment option is available when purchasing airBaltic GREEN tickets. Payments are free of airBaltic transaction fee and are available for flights booked at least five days ahead of the scheduled departure,” according to the air carrier.
The company is using the services of major crypto payments processor BitPay and converts cryptoassets into fiat. Meanwhile, the price of BTC jumped from USD 7,000 to almost USD 30,000 last year and today is fluctuating around USD 59,000.
Prior to the pandemic’s outbreak, airBaltic’s revenues were rapidly growing, increasing by 23% to about EUR 503.3m (USD 591.3m) in 2019. The airline carried some 5m passengers that year. However, the current restrictions on travel are emptying the company’s coffers, forcing airBaltic to reduce its cash reserves by around EUR 3.5m every week, according to its CEO Martin Gauss.
With airlines across the world struggling to stay financially afloat due to the pandemic, a rising number of industry players are finding an additional source of revenue in cryptocurrencies. Last month, UK-based private jet charter flight booking service PrivateFly announced that bitcoin payments generated 19% of the company’s revenue in January, and 13% of the flights were paid in bitcoin.
Also, last September, South Korean budget airline and Korean Air affiliate Jin Air joined forces with blockchain-powered travel and rewards points firm Mil.k to initiate a crypto-powered promotional offer for flight tickets. Earlier in 2020, another budget airline, Norwegian, announced it aimed to enable customers to pay for tickets using cryptocurrency within the year, hoping the new functionality would help improve its financial results. However, the company faced financial problems and was seeking bankruptcy protection. Last week, the High Court of Ireland has cleared the way for Norwegian Air to raise new capital and emerge from bankruptcy protection in Ireland and Norway in May by approving the airline’s restructuring scheme, RTE reported.
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