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Sky not the limit: AirBaltic first airline to accept bitcoin

Published time: July 23, 2014 14:58
Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Bitcoin’s latest expansion is into commercial airspace after Latvian airline airBaltic announced customers can start using bitcoins to pay for tickets. AirBaltic is the first airline to offer a bitcoin payment option.

“Introducing the bitcoin payment option is a part of our innovative approach to service with a central focus on our customer,” the airline’s CEO, Martin Gauss, said in a press statement.

Prices will be displayed in euro and converted into euro at the current exchange rate by Bitpay, a third-party payment processor, the statement said.

The move is testimony to the company’s innovative approach to business, which has ranked among the top ten most innovate airlines worldwide, according to Gauss.

The press statement doesn’t address how ticket refunds or cancellations would work under the bitcoin regime, or if customers that live in countries that have bans on bitcoin, will be able to use the feature. Air ticket prices also include taxes, and currently bitcoin is not taxable, since it isn’t backed by any government.

While bitcoin has gained popularity, it has also has a dark side, since the anonymity has made it a popular vehicle for crime including drug trafficking,

For that reason, many central banks have banned the currency, worried that users may unintentionally become mixed up in complex money laundering schemes or even indirectly sponsor terrorism.

Latvia itself doesn’t have a ban on the cryptocurrency, but Russia, Norway, and Iceland have all set up restrictions on using the currency.

The low-cost airline, established in 1995, flies to over 60 destinations across Europe, Russia and the CIS, and the Middle East. In 2011 the company became state-owned, but is now in privatization talks, an option Gauss says “isn’t impossible.” In 2013, the budget airline had a net income of $1.4 million (1 million euro).

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