Ravn Alaska takes steps to make FlyCoin a viable cryptocurrency

A Ravn turboprop plane on a runway with mountains behind it
Ravn CEO Rob McKinney said he’s unsure when the rewards program will transition to cryptocurrency, but he estimates around late April. (Hope McKenney/KUCB)

Over the summer, Ravn Alaska started an incentive program where customers could earn credits to purchase things like airline tickets or pay baggage fees. They named the credits “FlyCoin.”

Now the regional airline is working to make FlyCoin redeemable for hard currency.

“It’s going to be listed on cryptocurrency exchanges,” said Ravn Chief Operator Rob McKinney. “So then if you wanted to, you could trade your FlyCoin in for Bitcoin or for Ethereum. Or we’re working on partnerships with vendors of goods and services [so] you’d be able to use it directly with one of them as a form of payment, like people do with Apple Pay.”

Each FlyCoin, or “Fly,” is currently worth two cents. And all flights within Alaska earn seven cents per mile in Fly. Those can be exchanged for things like flights or snacks or used to offset baggage fees charged by the airline.

But eventually they may also be accepted by other carriers, McKinney said.

We are in talks with several other airlines around the world who are planning on making FlyCoin their loyalty rewards program, and then [with] any of those airlines, it will all be interchangeable,” he said.

He’s unsure when the rewards program will transition to cryptocurrency, but he estimates around late April.

Customers will still be able to redeem FlyCoin for Ravn flights, the same way they can now.

“If they’re afraid of the cryptocurrency aspect of it or don’t want to use it for any of that, [they] can use it just like it’s always been and say, ‘I want my free flight to St. Paul or to Unalaska, and I want to use my FlyCoin to do that,’ and it’ll work exactly the same,” McKinney said.

As of now, Ravn and Alaska airlines are still finalizing their frequent flier agreement. The two airlines announced the agreement in August, but company representatives said customers likely wouldn’t be able to use their Alaska Airlines miles to purchase Ravn flights until 2022.

Now representatives from both airlines still haven’t given a firm date on when the mileage sharing agreement would return. But travelers can still earn Alaska Airlines miles when they fly with Ravn, which is a significant step towards making travel to remote Alaska communities more affordable.

“Guests are still earning miles, and the IT departments are still working on full integration so the two systems can pass information to each other,” said Tim Thompson, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson.

Unalaskans had previously relied on a similar codeshare agreement between the former RavnAir Group and Alaska Airlines. But the island has been without any such arrangement since a fatal plane crash at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport in October of 2019.

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