Mainstream Bitcoin adoption is set to take another step forward as Norwegian Air Shuttle – one of Europe’s largest airlines – will begin accepting BTC payments later this year.
The development will mark the first time that a major airline has enabled its customers to purchase airfares directly using Bitcoin.
Norwegian Air Shuttle is Europe’s third-largest low-cost airline and, according to local finance newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, its acceptance of Bitcoin will be preceded by the launch of the Norwegian Block Exchange (NBX) in August.
NBX is owned almost entirely by the Kjos family, including Norwegian Air Shuttle founder Bjørn Kjos, who will be serving as the exchange’s CEO.
Kjos had previously served as the CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle for more than 17 years before stepping down earlier this month.
Using Bitcoin to fly the friendly skies
Unlike many businesses, whose first forays into crypto acceptance rely on third-party payment solutions like BitPay and Coinbase, Norwegian Air Shuttle will accept Bitcoin payments directly using a payment solution currently being developed by NBX.
“NBX will actually be Norwegian’s payment processor for virtual currency [payments]. The payment solution and crypto exchange are complementary products, giving the airline a complete solution.,” Stig Aleksander Kjos-Mathisen, the Managing Director of NBX, told Micky.
Kjos-Mathisen also noted that the payment solution that NBX is building will also be made available to other merchants.
A reward program for the airline’s customers will also be tied to the exchange.
“NBX’s customers are given the opportunity to earn ‘cash points’ on trades on the stock exchange, as well as on payments made through the payment solution NBX stock for the airline,” says Kjos-Mathisen.
In addition to Bitcoin, the airline will also be accepting Ethereum and USDC.
It is not yet known when, specifically, this will happen, but Kjos-Mathisen estimates that it would be sometime in early Q4 2019.
A crypto family affair
The Kjos family are major supporters of cryptocurrency, as evidenced by their decision to launch NBX.
While family patriarch Bjørn Kjos will be helming the exchange, other members of the Kjos family will play key roles as well.
His son, Lars Ola Kjos, will serve on the exchange’s board of directors and is one of the largest Bitcoin investors in Norway, having invested more than US$400,000 [AU$573,000] in the cryptocurrency.
Bjørn Kjos’ son-in-law, Stig Aleksander Kjos-Mathisen, will lead NBX as its managing director.
According to Kjos-Mathisen, NBX will initially only be available to Norwegian customers, with expansion to neighboring countries following soon after.
Increasing crypto acceptance
Norwegian Air Shuttle is the latest entry on a list of airlines and travel sites that accept cryptocurrency as a payment option.
Latvia-based AirBaltic accepts Bitcoin, and the airline’s network includes Europe, Russia, CIS, and the Middle East.
When asked what prompted Norwegian Air Shuttle to make the decision to accept cryptocurrency payments, Kjos-Mathisen explained:
“There [have] been some requests from customers, but the acceptance and shift to virtual currencies are mainly driven by the airline, which sees that the traditional methods of payment are too slow, expensive and inefficient.
“So accepting virtual currencies as payment from customers is just the first step towards smart ecosystems, where settlements in virtual currencies is an important part also in the B2B segment.”