FTE Global 2021 in pictures – our most important, ambitious and successful ever event

The 15th anniversary Future Travel Experience Global, hosted by McCarran International Airport, took place on 7-9 December 2021 in Las Vegas. Over 770 attendees gathered in-person for the first time in over two years to learn, collaborate and be inspired on their next moves to transform their organisations’ passenger experience and business performance strategies. The three-day event, themed “New Approaches for a New World”, featured inspirational keynotes, four conference tracks, a cutting-edge exhibition, interactive workshops, technical briefings, a Biometrics & Digital Identity Summit, guided tours of the TSA Innovation Checkpoint and Virgin Hyperloop sites, a plethora of networking opportunities, and the FTE Airline/Airport Transformation Power List Americas 2021. Here we round up some of the highlights from the show.

An exhibition of cutting-edge products and services from household names through to start-ups

More than 50 of the most progressive aviation industry suppliers showcased their latest solutions and products, ranging from biometrics, touchless and self-service tech to baggage handling, inflight and security systems. The exhibition featured some of the biggest players in the industry right now including NEC, Collins Aerospace, SITA, Vision-Box, Idemia, BagsID, Analogic, Copenhagen Optimization, Elenium Automation, Embross, ICM Airport Technics (an Amadeus company), Lufthansa Systems, Materna and many more. The exhibition floor also included a dedicated Startup Zone featuring some of the most progressive new suppliers on the market, including Assaia, Airsiders, femPAQ, Identy, Corsight AI and UCPlaces.

“It’s now the CES for aviation”: LAS welcome and future-focused keynotes

The FTE Global 2021 Conference opened with welcome addresses from Daniel Coleman, Founder and CEO, Future Travel Experience, and Rosemary A. Vassiliadis, Director of Aviation, Clark County Department of Aviation. Vassiliadis opened up by saying FTE Global “is now the CES for aviation”, then explained that Las Vegas McCarran International Airport has seen a strong return of demand from domestic leisure travellers, with more non-stop domestic routes than were served in December 2019. International travel is also cautiously coming back. “It’s not just about recovery, it’s about evolution. We’ve embraced this at LAS with technology and smart innovations. We opened the Innovation Checkpoint in 2019. LAS is also the only US airport to use biometrics to process 100% of its international passengers, and we have biometric bag drop with Spirit Airlines.”

The Opening Keynote was a truly inspirational FTE Global Exclusive: “The Virgin view of the future of travel, and how their efforts across air, sea, land and space could interconnect and help forge new industry approaches.” Mariana Fonseca Medina, VP of eCommerce, Virgin Voyages; Patrice Gordon, Commercial Strategy Development Director, Virgin Atlantic; and Diana Zhou, Senior Director of Global Business Development, Virgin Hyperloop, delivered a progressive vision of travel in 2035 focused on sustainability, technology, customer experience and loyalty: “It’s 2035, travel is not the same as it was. It’s smarter, more innovative, and easier. We know that the customer experience is really the key to that.”

The second Opening Keynote was delivered by Michael Leskinen, President, United Airlines Ventures & Vice President of Corporate Development and Investor Relations, United Airlines. He shared with FTE Global delegates how United Airlines is transforming the airline industry through bold commitments in areas such as urban air mobility, sustainability and supersonic travel. “The Ventures team focuses on sustainability, aerospace and technology,” Leskinen explained. “We’re working with teams across United to accelerate innovative new aircraft, new technology to improve the customer experience, and – especially – to reduce and eventually eliminate our carbon footprint. We’re going to use innovation to change the way we travel, and make it a competitive advantage for United.”

It was a packed auditorium for the next Exclusive Keynote from Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport, operated by Allegheny County Airport Authority, who shared how the airport “cracked the code on people, process and value to get the big stuff done”. Cassotis detailed the new $1.4 billion terminal designed and to be constructed post-pandemic, a recently commissioned Microgrid powering the campus, Neighborhood 91’s launch, and 10,000 square feet of terminal space dedicated as the xBridge to test materials, technology and innovation.

Delegates heard from one of the industry’s smartest minds – Matt Muta, Vice President Innovation, Delta Air Lines – with fascinating insights into how the airline is advancing the bold vision unveiled at CES in 2020, and what’s next as it continues to innovate to pull the future of flying forward. “Innovation is a pillar for Delta – it’s everything that we do, and we are very customer-centric,” he said. “We’re bringing our vision for the seamless digital-led experience to life through new tools and features. We think there are technologies and experiences happening in other industries that we can bring in to the airline industry. We continually innovate and improve, adjusting to changing times and customer expectations.”

“Our Next Guest Needs No Introduction…”

A popular feature of FTE Global is the traditional “Our Next Guest Needs No Introduction…” segment. This year, Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer, American Airlines, was interviewed on stage by Dr. Joe Leader, CEO, APEX & IFSA. Commenting on the transformative actions that American Airlines is taking, Taylor said: “During the pandemic we’ve been working to ensure that our 787-9 and A321XLR interiors are going to be best-in-class. We need to be cutting-edge and we need our interiors to not just be reflected on the aircraft, but also in the lounge.”

Future Airports Conference

The Future Airports Conference focused on how airports should look and operate in the post-COVID-19 world; baggage innovation; progressive approaches to airport design, construction and sustainability; touchless travel; biometrics and digital identity; and using technology and innovation to meet new efficiency, commercial, safety and health considerations at the airport. A candid discussion explored new business models and the ways in which all stakeholders can work more effectively together to achieve future-proof designs, enhance commercial success, get technology choices right, smooth processes, reduce costs, lower emissions and better serve passengers. Moderator Antoine Rostworowski, Senior Vice President, Programmes and Commercial Services, ACI World, was joined by David Wilson, Chief Operations Officer, Oman Airports Management Company; Julie Rath, VP, Customer Experience & Reservations, American Airlines; Augusto Santos, Head of Design and Innovation Team, Collins Aerospace; and Paul Puopolo, Executive Vice President of Innovation, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

A key session in the Future Airports Conference focused on using technology and innovation to meet new efficiency, commercial, safety and health considerations at the airport. Ryan Ghee, Head of Strategy & Development, FTE Innovation & Startup Hub, led a panel of industry experts sharing a range of dynamic approaches they are exploring to help airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders evolve their approaches to improve overall business performance. The panellists included: Idar Sørgjerd, Manager, Baggage Handling Service, Technical Infrastructure & Innovations, Avinor; Kevin Kleist, Emerging Trends Advisor, Southwest Airlines; Daniel McCoy, Chief Innovation Officer, Transportation Security Administration (TSA); Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation and Chief Information Officer, Vancouver Airport Authority; Michael Tan, President, Scarabee Aviation Group; and Nick Scott, Director of Planning, United Airlines.

The real industry “Maverick” makes a rare appearance at our 15th anniversary show

Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, returned to the stage for the Day 1 closing session, in which she interviewed Maury Gallagher, Chairman and CEO, Allegiant Airlines. They discussed the airline’s unique-to-industry focus on leisure travel, providing affordable, non-stop flights to premier vacation destinations, as well as Allegiant’s evolution as an integrated travel company, increasingly offering lodging, rental cars and access to special experiences to customers. It was a fascinating discussion, with a true industry “Maverick” with a refreshing take on leadership and nurturing talent. He revealed he’s just bought a racing team as he just loves competing and FTE wishes him all the best with that new venture.

Digital & Innovation Conference

The Digital & Innovation Conference provided a deep dive into the technologies and trends that are reshaping the industry, with high-level inspiration provided by a number of the most forward-thinking organisations in air transport. A keynote session moderated by Chris Runde, Corporate Strategy & Innovation, Ross & Baruzzini, and featuring Naashom Marx, Sr. Manager of Strategic Innovation, CVG Airport; Rick Belliotti, Director, Innovation and Customer Experience Design, San Diego International Airport; and Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation and CIO, Vancouver Airport Authority proved to be a catalyst for fresh thinking, with autonomous vehicles, touchless tech and digital twins among the examples of innovation shared from the stage.

Running alongside this was another top-level keynote conference session, with Charles Duncan, President, Swoop & EVP, WestJet; Dr. Bjoern Becker, Head of Future Intercontinental Experience Program, Lufthansa Group; and Brian Loo, Senior Director of Operations Development, Meow Wolf providing inspiration from inside and outside of the air transport industry.

Among the many other highlights was a panel exploring how airlines can leverage data, digital platforms and innovation to evolve, create new business models and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world. Moderated by APEX/IFSA CEO Dr. Joe Leader, the session brought together innovators from the likes of Air Canada, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Breeze Airways, Tata Communications, Global Crossing Airlines and Lufthansa Systems, who all provided expert insight. An exclusive reveal at the event came from Dee Evans, Director of Information Systems, Breeze Airways, who unveiled that the airline has decided to manufacture, deploy and provide the technology for its own check-in kiosks in the future, which was a cost-focused decision.

Meanwhile, a hybrid session provided a platform for PLAY, Plan3, Japan Airlines, Ditto and oneworld to address the topic of new approaches to digital innovation resulting from the pandemic, with on-stage presenters joined by online speakers presenting live from Europe and Asia.

The first-ever FTE Air MobilityX Conference

FTE Global 2021 hosted the inaugural Air MobilityX conference, which provided a platform for the industry to share and explore the very latest developments in this fast-moving area and to help delegates understand how they should adapt their strategies, infrastructure and systems to take advantage of this major change in transportation. Moderated by highly respected subject matter expert Robin Riedel, Partner at McKinsey & Company, the conference kicked off with fascinating case studies delivered by Joseph Alesia, SVP Corporate Development, Ferrovial Airports, and Will Nicholas, Head of US Business Development, Lilium; as well as Japan Airlines VP, Global Marketing & Customer Experience Akira Mitsumasu, all of whom offered rich insights into the impressive work that is being undertaken today in the field of advanced air mobility.

Following an interactive workshop led by Porsche Consulting exploring what the mobility ecosystem of the future will look like and how air transport industry stakeholders can successfully integrate with it, a highly engaging panel discussion, featuring JetBlue Technology Ventures, Skyports, Avports, CVG Airport and Hyundai Urban Air Mobility explored how the air transport sector should adapt facilities and adjust strategies to maximise the opportunities presented through new urban air mobility.

Attendees also had a unique opportunity to participate in interactive workshops led by Volocopter’s Vertiports Operations Manager, Velis Eleftheriou, as well as Paragon VTOL Aerospace Chief Visionary Officer Dwight Smith, and Bryant Walker, ACM / Aviation Administrator, City of Brownsville – Department of Aviation.

Ancillary Conference

FTE Global 2021 also featured a dedicated Ancillary conference, which explored strategies for enhancing customer experiences, while boosting revenue opportunities at every point of the journey. In a scene-setting presentation FTE’s Ancillary Ambassador Jay Sorensen, President, IdeaWorksCompany, outlined the findings of his latest report, which highlights how the industry has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides ideas on how revenue can be increased. Sorensen was later joined on stage by Dr. Joe Leader, CEO, APEX/IFSA; Dr. Bjoern Becker, Head of Future Intercontinental Experience Program, Lufthansa; Ole Orvér, Chief Commercial Officer, Finnair; Mariana Fonseca Medina, VP of eCommerce, Virgin Voyages; and Scott Kichline, Assistant Director – Aviation: Business / Commercial Development, McCarran International Airport, to provide their expert perspectives on the future of the airline ancillary business.

Later in the day, Kian T. Gould, Chairman of the Board, Omnevo, provided an overview on how digital ancillary growth can become a driver for recovery. Also focusing on commercial innovation and the future of e-commerce were speakers from the likes of Vantage Airport Group, Spirit Airlines, JFK International Air Terminal, AirFi, MAG USA, and Transformidy.

Biometrics & Digital Identity Summit

Part 1 of the Biometrics & Digital Identity Summit – sponsored by NEC – began with an opening joint keynote by Diane J. Sabatino, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Austin Gould, Assistant Administrator, RCA, Transportation Security Administration (TSA). They discussed how the U.S. CBP and TSA are collaborating to further secure and enhance the travel experience with biometrics while protecting the privacy of all travellers.

A fascinating discussion followed on how Star Alliance and NEC’s biometric data-based identification platform roll-out has improved the travel experience for frequent flyers at airports around the world, and the big lessons learned. The panel featured: Christian Draeger, VP Customer Experience, Star Alliance; Bill Carleton, Director, Program Management, NEC Corporation of America; Sherry Stein, Head of Technology Strategy, Americas, SITA; and Patrick Sgueglia, Product Manager – Regulatory Services & Biometrics, Lufthansa. The session concluded with a special video presentation by Akira Mitsumasu, VP, Global Marketing & CX, Japan Airlines & Member of the APEX Board of Directors. He shared insights into how facial recognition technology is powering experiences at airports, stadiums and more in support of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Part 2 of the Biometrics & Digital Identity Summit – sponsored by NEC – focused on how the industry can successfully bring together all the necessary elements to facilitate and successfully scale new digital identity and biometric efforts globally. Moderated by Dr. Joe Leader, CEO, APEX & IFSA, panellists included: Greg Forbes, Managing Director Airport Experience, Delta Air Lines; Jason Lim, Identity Management Capability Manager, Transportation Security Administration (TSA); Sarah Clark, Senior Vice President – Digital Identity, Mastercard; Dave Wilson, Director, Airport Innovation, Port of Seattle; and Jim St. Clair, Executive Director, Linux Foundation Public Health.

FTE Global Welcome Drinks & Networking Reception

After being kept apart for 18 months, this year FTE brought its renowned social programme to the next level to ensure maximum networking opportunities. To kick off the show, delegates were invited to a Welcome Drinks Reception in the exhibition hall, where they were able to enjoy demonstrations in the exhibition and network with their peers. This was followed by an Opening Night Mixer at the quirky Beerhaus Las Vegas venue, where attendees were able to grab a cold brew, play some bar games and network on the outdoor patio. Day 2 of the show culminated with a spectacular Networking Reception, kindly hosted by McCarran International Airport and sponsored by MAG USA, which took place on the Ironwood Terrace at the ARIA Resort, providing delegates and exhibitors with an unparalleled outdoor nightlife experience. Las Vegas’ most electrifying Elton John tribute offered an authentic performance which highlighted the life and career of the legendary entertainer with extravagantly colourful costumes and Elton’s greatest hits.

FTE Airline/Airport Transformation Power List Americas winners announced

A highlight during the Networking Reception was the FTE Airline/Airport Transformation Power List Americas awards ceremony. The most transformative change enablers within the airline and airport industry in the Americas region were recognised for their outstanding efforts to embrace innovation in order to recover and thrive following the COVID-19 crisis. A total of 20 leading figures from airlines and airports across the region were recognised for their achievements, and three in each category were awarded with an ‘Outstanding Achievement’ trophy. The winners in the Airline category were Matt Muta, VP, Innovation, Delta Air Lines; Rocky Wiggins, SVP & Chief Information Officer, Spirit Airlines; and Maya Leibman, EVP – Chief Information Officer, American Airlines; while Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation & CIO, Vancouver Airport Authority; and Paul Puopolo, EVP of Innovation, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport won the awards in the Airport category. You can read the full report from the Awards here.

New sustainable baggage initiative unveiled

Attendees at the Networking Reception were also introduced to the unveiling of a new initiative focused on an often-overlooked part of the travel industry’s carbon footprint – baggage. NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) and BagsID Network, a Dutch-based software company for computer-vision baggage identification, have partnered to initiate the Green Baggage Alliance – focused on reducing the environmental impact that travelling with baggage has on our planet. Green Baggage Alliance is a membership-based consortium of companies, educational institutions and other stakeholders who have an interest in improving the travel industry’s carbon footprint. Annual membership helps invest in research into the impact of luggage on the travel industry, provides a platform for more visibility and fewer barriers for all industry stakeholders, and inspires and incentivises the industry to become more transparent. Member benefits include exclusive educational resources like webinars and articles, networking opportunities, access to partner discounts and promotions, and more. Presenting the initiative was Roeland Visser, Airport Consultant, NACO & Manager, InterVISTAS Consulting, who the following day also led an interactive workshop on sustainable baggage handling to familiarise attendees with the new initiative.

Guided tours of the TSA Advancing the Checkpoint Environment (ACE) initiative at LAS

Exclusively for FTE Global attendees, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Innovation Task Force led guided tours, attended by over 225 participants, to showcase the latest iteration of the one-of-a-kind future checkpoint site running at McCarran International Airport (LAS), which is trialling new machines, and new approaches, to gather data and feedback on whether the technology is something TSA wants to use at airports nationwide. Following the tour, TSA’s Austin Gould, Assistant Administrator, RCA, and Matt Gilkeson, Director, Innovation Task Force, briefed delegates on the organisation’s future plans around the evolution of security processes.

FTE Innovation & Startup Hub activities – Virgin Hyperloop tour, startup pitches and more

Corporate Partners of the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub – the world’s first air transport innovation network – had access to some unique and exclusive activities at FTE Global, the highlight of which was a guided tour of the incredible Virgin Hyperloop Test and Development Site in Nevada. Located 30 miles north of Las Vegas, the site has been home to numerous hyperloop firsts and over 500 tests, including the world’s first passenger run in 2020. On the tour, our Corporate Partners – including innovators from the likes of CVG Airport, Southwest Airlines, Tampa International Airport, American Airlines, Neom, Marubeni Corporation and Team ABC – were given a behind-the-scenes look at the components that bring hyperloop together, including the 500-metre tube and track, the control room and more, while Virgin Hyperloop executives were onsite to lead the tour and answer questions. In addition, six pioneering Startup Zone exhibitors – Assaia, Airsiders, femPAQ, Identy, Corsight AI and UCPlaces – had the opportunity to deliver quick-fire pitches to our Corporate Partners, shedding light on how they are using technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning and biometrics to help enhance the customer experience and operational efficiency.

U.S. CBP Briefing & Technical Overview Workshop

FTE Global 2021 was also complemented by a U.S. CBP workshop during which experts from CBP and guest speakers led in-depth technical sessions in an interactive environment on the best approaches to rolling out a biometrics programme. Attendees heard briefings from Cheryl Davies, Area Port Director, Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Jason Lim, Identity Management Capability Manager, Transportation Security Administration (TSA); Patrick Sgueglia, Product Manager – Regulatory Services & Biometrics, Lufthansa; and Nael Samha, Acting Executive Director – Targeting and Analysis Systems Program Directorate, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

First in-person FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group meeting & Baggage Innovation Summit 

Following a number of online FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group (BIWG) meetings, the first face-to-face meeting took place at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport on 7 December. Members focused on how LAS is answering the challenges of a modern baggage operation by pioneering common use and RFID baggage tracking in its Terminal 1, whilst championing modern build facilities and flexibility in Terminal 3. The opportunities for further innovative solutions in these systems were explored in the context of how themes of the BIWG can be applied to the operations, and throughout the meeting the key baggage operational staff were present to explain the reasoning behind design decisions. Day 2 of the conference also featured a dedicated Baggage Innovation Summit, led by FTE’s Head of Baggage Transformation, Andrew Price. The summit presented an industry compliant baggage broker, which makes it easier to access airport and airline data, and opens the door for collaborative projects and data visualisation solutions, such as those presented by FTE Global exhibitor Copenhagen Optimization. The broker takes us from messaging based on 1980s teletype technology to a cloud based, containerised world of scalable implementation. The summit was the first output from the BIWG meetings, which will continue throughout 2022.

Interactive Workshops, Co-creation Forums and Jump Seat Debates

As part of FTE’s efforts to be an industry change catalyst, we once again championed industry collaboration through a number of Workshops, Co-creation Forums and Jumpseat Debates. These interactive sessions provided a discussion platform for various stakeholders to explore how they can collaborate in key areas to enhance the end-to-end passenger experience and improve operations. A workshop led by Dave Wilson, Director, Airport Innovation, Port of Seattle, brought together attendees to share the key lessons learned from recent virtual queuing efforts at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Meanwhile, David Wilson, Chief Operations Officer, Oman Airports, hosted a Co-creation session on nurturing future talent for your organisation. Another highlight was a highly engaging workshop on how the Virgin Group is enabling seamless travel across land, sea, air and space, led by Mariana Fonseca Medina and Billy Bohan-Chinique, Virgin Voyages; and Diana Zhou and Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop. In addition, Clyde Hutchinson, General Partner, Team ABC, and Amy Malaki, Director Partnerships and Policy at SkyNRG, hosted a thought-provoking Jump Seat Debate around sustainability, exploring the role that startups, airlines, airports and alternative fuel companies will have in supplying fuel for the next transport industrial revolution.

Mark your diary: FTE Global 2022 to take place on 6-9 September 2022, Las Vegas – be part of our biggest ever show

Future Travel Experience Global 2022 will return to Las Vegas from 6-9 September 2022. Mark your diary today! The following companies are already confirmed to exhibit:


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