Innovation has become imperative for any business today. In recent years, the aviation industry has been increasingly investing in transforming its operational model for the benefit of its stakeholders and customers alike. To celebrate this, FTE has launched the FTE Innovate Awards, which will recognise and celebrate the best air transport industry innovations from across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. The finalists will pitch onstage during FTE EMEA 2020 (3-4 June, Dublin) and the winners will be announced during the Closing Party.
This week, FTE spoke to Amy Burr, Managing Director, Operations and Partnerships, JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV) & FTE Innovate Awards judge, who shared tips and advice for airports, airlines, vendors and startups as they prepare their awards entries.
FTE: As one of the judges for the FTE Innovate Awards, what are you looking for among the entries?
Amy Burr: “I’m looking for ideas that seek to solve common, real-world problems in travel — there are many niche opportunities for improving the industry, but entrants should be considering the bigger picture. I would love to see an idea that touches multiple parts of the travel ribbon: if an entry is able to connect currently disjointed pieces of the travel experience and offers benefits to not just their category, but others as well, that would be a game-changer.”
What criteria will you use to judge innovation?
“The companies should present solutions that are creative, yet feasible given current industry infrastructure and regulations. An idea may work really well for a specific airport or airline, but it’d be great to take it one step further and scale that idea across multiple locations and providers.
For startups specifically, their idea should encompass technology that can be easily integrated into a potential operating company, and I’d like to see a well-thought-out business plan for that integration. Even if an entry isn’t necessarily ready to trial their product at this level yet, it would be beneficial for them to have an operations strategy and potential process already in place for when they do reach that stage.”
What advice would you give companies and individuals who are thinking of entering the awards?
“You can never get too much practice! For people who are debating on whether or not to enter this competition, my advice is to do it for the sole purpose of practicing your elevator pitch. It’s a great opportunity to receive feedback, brand exposure, and network with like-minded individuals in the industry.
One thing in particular – your presentation should clearly state the problem you’ve addressed, and how your innovation solves it. It’s especially helpful for judges to see quantitative data that supports your project’s impact. For startups in particular, it’s important to lay out the company business plan or financial model.”
What steps do you feel airports and airlines should take to spearhead innovation?
“One of our key goals at JetBlue Technology Ventures is to encourage and support JetBlue and its ecosystem of partners to continue to trial new types of innovation as effectively as possible. Large corporations can often get caught up in the idea of formalised contracts and locking in business partners, losing sight of the ‘art of the possible’. Great improvement and innovation comes from trial and error and having a proof of concept process for new technology allows the travel industry to think outside the box.
JTV also launched an international partnership programme which includes peers like Air New Zealand and Vantage Airport Group. Innovation can happen more quickly and impactfully when different industry stakeholders work together to improve efficiencies in shared infrastructure and processes.”
Can you share some of the initiatives you are undertaking to drive innovation within JetBlue?
“To help drive innovation within JetBlue, JTV organises educational events to conduct a deep dive on trending topics in the industry and connect with important stakeholders in the space. These events include both JetBlue Crewmembers (employees) as well as external topic experts and practitioners. Our goal is to understand the most pressing business opportunities. We also run 12-week “Innovation Sprints” with different workgroups at JetBlue to expose our colleagues to startups that might suit their business needs and be solutions to challenges they’re currently facing. It is our way of helping JetBlue workgroups understand what the future of their sector looks like. We do all this as well for our many partners, ultimately helping connect them to new and relevant startups like we do for JetBlue Airways.”
Amy Burr will judge the FTE Innovate Awards alongside Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy & Development Officer, Bengaluru International Airport; Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future; and Bert van der Stege, Head of Commercial, Swoop.