Etihad Aviation Group and SEA provide inspiration at latest FTE Innovation & Startup Hub virtual event


The latest FTE Innovation & Startup Hub members-only virtual event took place on 26 October and brought together airports, airlines, investors, startups and a variety of other innovators from across the air transport industry for an interactive two-and-a-half hour online gathering. The FTE Hub is the air transport industry’s only network designed for the organisations and individuals who are at the forefront of innovation and attendees included long-time members as well as a handful of first-time participants.

Etihad Aviation Group talks turbo-charged innovation

Kai Ling Ting, Head of Innovation, Etihad Aviation Group: “It is undeniable that COVID-19 has helped to turbo-charge innovation.”

Kai Ling Ting, Head of Innovation, Etihad Aviation Group kicked off the event with an inspiring Innovation Keynote, which provided insight into the Group’s innovation strategy and the impact that COVID-19 has had. “It is undeniable that COVID-19 has helped to turbo-charge innovation,” Ting told attendees.

For Etihad, the pandemic led to innovation horizons shortening due to the new, more immediate priorities, including health, wellness and the desire for a more touchless experience.

Etihad also launched “Project Vision” to identify the opportunities that will exist in the post-pandemic world, Ting explained, adding that the Group’s existing dedication to innovation put it in a strong starting position. She also emphasised the need for the industry as a whole to ensure that it grasps the opportunity to “build back better” in the coming months and years. Ting highlighted the IATA Travel Pass and Etihad’s Verified to Fly initiative as positive examples of innovation and collaboration, as well as the Group’s focus on making use of automation and investing in environmental and financial sustainability. Looking ahead to the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, Ting revealed that Etihad’s primary areas of focus when it comes to innovation are providing a seamless and contactless experience without losing the personal touch, embracing sustainability and further empowering the workforce.

SEA’s innovation strategy – technology, collaboration and customer experience

The second Innovation Keynote was delivered by Dave Wilson, Director, Airport Innovation, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who took attendees on a fast-paced tour of SEA’s wide-reaching innovation journey. Wilson touched upon a raft of case studies – including the use of computer vision technology, 3D printing, robotics, biometrics and various other technologies – and highlighted how SEA has embraced collaboration with the likes of the TSA, FAA and DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program. He also highlighted how an internal “shark tank” initiative and employee innovation challenges have helped to encourage and foster innovation across the organisation.

SEA’s Spot Saver is a free-to-use virtual queuing solution that enables travellers to reserve a time slot for TSA screening.

In response to the impact of the pandemic, SEA even changed its procurement rules to enable more testing of products and services. New cleaning tools and touchless technology were rapidly investigated and prototyped, for instance. The importance of physical distancing was also identified early on and, as a result, SEA developed “Spot Saver”, a free-to-use virtual queuing solution that enables travellers to reserve a time slot for TSA screening and therefore removes the need to join a long queue. Wilson explained that not only has Spot Saver reduced waiting times, users have reported spending more time in SEA’s dining and retail facilities as a result of the time savings, which can only be a positive from a revenue generation perspective.

Startup pitches and virtual roundtables 

During the virtual event, three startup members also had the opportunity to pitch their products and services to the Corporate Partners in attendance. Caasco highlighted how their technology can help to empower the industry to address the big issue of flight disruption service recovery; OneGrab shared how they can enable airports, airlines and their partners to offer travellers online F&B ordering and just-in-time delivery by utilising cloud kitchens; and ProTagged shared its vision for a more sustainable and fully digital future for baggage.

The members-only event also featured interactive Virtual Innovation Roundtables in which participants were able to join breakout rooms to share ideas, experiences and insights on two pertinent topics – successfully creating a culture of innovation and creating new revenue streams in the post-pandemic world. After a brief scene-setting introduction in each virtual room, participants were invited to contribute to the open discussion. The notes and key takeaways from each breakout session will be shared with all members post-event to feed into their own work in these areas.

Interested in joining the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub as a Corporate Partner?

The FTE Innovation & Startup Hub is the only global community designed for the organisations and individuals who are at the forefront of innovation in the air transport sector.

Are you interested in joining the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub as a Corporate Partner? If so, contact us today to learn more about our unique global air transport innovation network. Corporate Partner memberships include access to our virtual and in-person members-only events and activities, access to our online directory of 360+ approved startup members, delegate passes for our renowned conferences and expos, and access to members-only activities such as an exclusive guided tour of the Virgin Hyperloop Test & Development Site in Nevada, which will take place during FTE Global 2021 this December.

Annual membership prices have been reduced in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the air transport industry, so now is the ideal time to join! Also, early-stage startups can join for free. Find out more on the FTE Hub website or contact us here to learn more. 


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