An aviation startup wants to revolutionize frequent flyer programs by letting travelers earn cryptocurrency simply by flying: Meet FlyCoin

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  • FlyCoin is a new fintech startup looking to offer flyers an alternative to traditional loyalty programs.

  • Flyers can earn "FlyCoins" that can be exchanged for currencies such as bitcoin or US dollars.

  • Ravn Alaska is currently participating in the program and Northern Pacific Airways will join once flights launch.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Accruing cryptocurrency may soon be as easy as earning airline frequent flyer miles.

FlyCoin is a new financial technology company seeking to upend the traditional model of frequent flyer programs by implementing cryptocurrency-based principles. Rather than airline miles limited to use on a given airline, rewards are given in the form of tokens that can be exchanged for anything from free flights to US dollars or bitcoin.

"When you look at what it is right now, it's essentially like money, but not really because it's tied to making sure that you stay within the system of the airline," Lenny Moon, FlyCoin's newly-appointed chief executive officer, told Insider of the billion-dollar frequent flyer industry where loyalty is built through points and miles, as well as perks for top spenders including upgrades, waived service fees, and streamlined airport experiences.

Once tokenized, investors would be able to earn cryptocurrency in the same way that frequent flyers accrue airline miles: buying airline tickets and traveling the globe. "FlyCoins" don't expire and newly-appointed CEO Lenny Moon told Insider they won't be subject to the devaluations that have been occurring to frequent flyer programs including Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards, thanks to crypto principles of decentralization and finite supply.

For frequent flyers, earning FlyCoin simply by taking flights can be a risk-free way to build up a cryptocurrency portfolio. And with bitcoin expected to hit as much as $100,000 by 2022, according to a Standard Chartered report, flyers may be sitting on a sizeable investment.

Two airlines are already onboard including Ravn Alaska and Northern Pacific Airways, the latter being the new startup aiming to connect the US and Asia through Anchorage, Alaska.

And by piggybacking on Northern Pacific's plan to build a transcontinental hub in Anchorage, FlyCoin's eventual goal is to have its currency accepted at businesses. That also means potentially transforming Alaska's largest city into a cryptocurrency haven where travelers can use FlyCoin to purchase goods and services.

The company is already in talks with Anchorage's Ted Stevens International Airport to have FlyCoin accepted at concessions in the terminal and hopes to grow within Anchorage to include hotels, tour operators, and other local businesses.

As goes Anchorage, the hope is that so goes the rest of Northern Pacific's destinations in the Lower 48 including New York, Orlando, and Las Vegas. Cryptocurrency is already growing in acceptance on the opposite side of the international dateline, including in the Asian destinations that Northern Pacific hopes to serve.

"A lot of it will be it in as many people's hands as possible while providing them the opportunity to spend [FlyCoin] and the optionality to do so," Moon said, "whether it's on planes, whether it's at the terminal, whether it's at local sites seeing, and then eventually in other parts of the US and in Asia."

United Airlines, for example, allows MileagePlus members to use their frequent flier miles to purchase meals, snacks, and other goods in its terminals at Newark Liberty International Airport. But FlyCoin wants to break free from the airport altogether.

"You now have an opportunity where you're rewarded as a customer, but now you can spend [those rewards] and use [them] for a much broader open-ended set of options," Moon said.

Cryptocurrencies are riding a wave of enthusiasm and growing public acceptance that FlyCoin hopes will contribute to its success. El Salvador, for example, just adopted bitcoin as a national currency alongside the dollar.

"We're sitting at the intersection of good variables that may be very helpful in the process for us to lead the change," Moon said.

FlyCoin doesn't yet have a timeline for tokenization but has some time as Northern Pacific won't be starting flights until the summer of 2022. Until then, FlyCoin can be earned by taking a flight on Ravn Alaska.

Read the original article on Business Insider