What if British Airways sold passports?

This is neither a serious proposal, nor an official proposal. This is just me thinking in public.

Governments are a monopoly. There is only one institution which can grant you a passport - Her Majesty's Passport Office.

That's not quite true, of course. You are free to seek citizenship in other countries. And some countries will sell you a passport.

In business studies terms, other countries might be termed as "traditional competitors". Much like BBC1 competes with ITV in the TV environment. A competitor might come via a different delivery mechanism - like cable or satellite - but they're essentially the same proposition.

And then Netflix comes along. It doesn't deliver linear TV. It doesn't travel over the airwaves. It has a completely different revenue model. It is convenient. And it eats the competitors' lunch.

This is the essence of "disruption". Asymmetric competitors which don't play by your outdated rules.

So, what can disrupt the state?

Let's suppose that the Republic of Wakanda decides that they want to open up to international travellers. Rather than issue passports themselves, they do a deal with an airline.
Anyone with enough BA airmiles to get Platinum Status is automatically granted a Wakandan Passport. It is, nominally, certified by their passport office but is entirely operated and managed by British Airways.

Perhaps this "passport" isn't recognised by any other state. But that's OK, some customers are happy to only travel between their home and the land of the Black Panther.

And then... The country next door realises the economic advantage of these travellers, and starts accepting Wakandan / BA passports. Then a former Russian state of Arstotzka thinks it has nothing to lose so also goes for it. Perhaps Pan Am launches a similar "passport" with Tomainia - and anyone with WorldPass Ultra status gets a passport.

It starts small - like Netflix's DVDs by post. Then expands into other markets as competitors encroach. And then "Wakanda and Fly?" becomes a catchphrase.

To be clear - I don't think this is the future and I don't think it's a good idea. This is an exercise in "what if...?"

Could Uber issue its own driving licences for its semi-autonomous vehicles? Would you subscribe to Securiroo to get an off-duty Police Officer to your door in 30 minutes or less? How about paying your tax directly to Monzo and then they can negotiate a cheaper rate with HMRC on behalf of millions of customers?

These are deliberately absurd ideas.

But there are business ideas out there which will disintermediate the state. What are they and how should we react to them?

5 thoughts on “What if British Airways sold passports?

  1. Super thought-provoking. I suppose this already happens to a certain extent with money - with US dollar or Euro being the de-facto (or even de jure) currency for lots of international transactions and countries without stable currencies of their own.

  2. These aren’t all that far fetched ... “Would you subscribe to Securiroo to get an off-duty Police Officer to your door in 30 minutes or less?” that’s strikingly close to reality in some parts of some other countries, and even here to some extent with the likes of G4S(!)

  3. Perhaps we need to have fractional shares in a big stable company and they could be conveyed into a non fiat currency 🙂🤷‍♂️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *