Who will follow Esplorio, Vchain and Volantio as IAG launches third Hangar 51 global innovation programme?

International Airlines Group (IAG) is launching its third Hangar 51 global innovation programme in collaboration with British Airways, Avios and IAG Cargo. Start-ups from around the world are invited to join the programme which will be based at the company’s London headquarters and up to ten will be embedded in the heart of the business to develop and test their products with the opportunity to grow on a global scale.


Summary:

  • IAG is to launch a third round of its Hangar 51 global innovation programme in partnership with corporate innovation specialist L Marks and in collaboration with British Airways, Avios and IAG Cargo;
  • The programme was first launched in Oct-2016 and has seen eleven start-ups joined the accelerator stage with IAG investing directly in three – Esplorio, Vchain and Volantio;
  • More than 800 applications have been made to join the programme previously with a short list ups presenting their innovative products and services before a judging panel at a pitch day ahead of the accelerator stage;
  • IAG CEO Willie Walsh describes the Hangar 51 initiative as “fascinating” and acknowledges it has delivered “an insight into a lot of bright people and bright ideas and innovation that can be adapted to suit our industry, to support our business and help our customers”.

In partnership with corporate innovation specialist L Marks, Hangar 51 supports start-ups of all sizes and growth stages to transform the travel industry. In two previous programmes eleven start-ups joined the accelerator stage of the programme with IAG investing directly in three – Esplorio, an app that records and shares travel experiences in a simple way; Vchain, a blockchain technology that builds patent-pending Digital Identity SaaS (Software as a Service); and Volantio – a web platform that helps airlines to plan seat capacity more effectively through Machine Learning (ML), while providing customers with better predictability and control over their trips.

In the first run more than 450 start-ups applied to join Hangar 51 and following a pitch day, four companies were selected to spend 10 weeks working in IAG’s headquarters where they were able to trial their products globally and receive mentoring from both the Group’s senior management team and external mentors. The second edition last year saw more than 350 applications from 46 countries, with 30 start-ups presenting their innovative products and services before a judging panel at a pitch day and seven were selected to trial their technology with IAG, Iberia, Iberia Express and Vueling, based in Madrid and Barcelona.

Its last investment with Volantio is already delivering returns launching its Yana platform in the European market in just 27 business days after runjing tests during Hangar 51 with Iberia to analyse passengers’ behaviour trends. This was the fastest deployment they have ever done globally with any airline. The platform enables airlines to proactively identify flexible passengers on high demand flights and offer them alternative seats on lower demand flights with added incentives.

Passengers are notified days in advance of their departure to provide enough time to change plans accordingly. Central to Yana are machine learning algorithms that combine millions of anonymised data points to identify passengers with the highest probability of acceptance. Passengers are subsequently sent personalised offers which can include benefits such as upgrades, travel vouchers and frequent flyer points.

IAG has a strong history of partnership and innovation, from pioneering commercial flight, to launching one of the world’s newest airlines. Over the next twenty years, it says it wants “to reinvent the way people travel the world”. Dupsy Abiola, IAG’s head of global innovation, says IAG “is passionate about cultivating and supporting the next generation of travel technology companies” and as one of the world’s largest airline groups, disruptive start-ups “can benefit from our size, scale and expertise to help drive faster product innovation”.

As highlighted here, the programme goes beyond a traditional accelerator and the offer to disruptive companies to enjoy ten weeks of co-working alongside IAG is particularly a great incentive. The latest accelerator programme will focus on six core categories and the closure date for applications is 05-Aug-2018. Here at the different categories:

  • Connected service: innovative devices, including wearables and IoT solutions, which can assist in providing an excellent experience for customers and employees.
  • Smarter operations: big data analytics, robotic processes and smart contracting to optimise business operations.
  • New products: creative solutions to enhance the products and services portfolio which can be integrated into existing platforms to improve the customer journey.
  • Future cargo logistics: shipping analytics, asset tracking, and measurement and monitoring tools to optimise cargo operations.
  • Loyalty and rewards: tech solutions and platforms, such as card-linking and alternative payment options, which are easily integrated into Avios, the airlines’ channels and retail partners.
  • Wildcard: any new disruptive ideas that have the potential to reshape the travel industry.

Speaking to The Blue Swan Daily at the recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation Airline Leader Summit, Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, described the Hangar 51 programme as “fascinating” and “a shop window that has opened our eyes to a lot of very innovative thinking and innovative ideas” that it wouldn’t have come across if it wasn’t for the programme.

He acknowledged it has delivered “an insight into a lot of bright people and bright ideas and innovation that can be adapted to suit our industry, to support our business and help our customers,”  and added: “Its been really exciting… It’s great when you see a bright idea and you go ‘wow, we can adapt this and it can actually fit to address some of the challenges we have in our industry.”

Find out more insights from IAG CEO Willie Walsh in this CAPA TV interview from the CAPA Airline Leader Summit, where he provides an update on Brexit and the third runway debate at London Heathrow, while revealing the thinking behind its acquisition of a small shareholding in LCC Norwegian and subsequent takeover offers. He talks about the performance of Aer Lingus and its network development plans and the airline group’s optimistic outlook for 2018 and beyond.