Innovators from American, Delta, Spirit, CVG, YVR and DFW recognised with ‘Outstanding Achievement’ awards at FTE Global 2021


The winners and presenters: Samuel Ingalls, Principal, Barich; Dave Wilson, Director, Airport Innovation, Port of Seattle; Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation and Chief Information Officer, Vancouver Airport Authority; Dr. Joe Leader, CEO, APEX/IFSA; Matt Muta, VP, Innovation, Delta Air Lines; Rick Belliotti, Director, Innovation and Customer Experience Design, San Diego International Airport; Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Marcus Session, Vice President Information Technology Services, Tampa International Airport; Daniel Coleman, Founder & CEO, Future Travel Experience; Paul Puopolo, Executive Vice President of Innovation, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; and Jason Van Sice, Vice President, Advanced Recognition Systems, NEC.

At the 15th anniversary Future Travel Experience Global event in Las Vegas, 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.

The FTE Airline/Airport Transformation Power List Americas ceremony took place at the FTE Global 2021 Networking Party – sponsored by MAG USA and hosted by McCarran International Airport – on the stunning Ironwood Terrace at the ARIA Resort & Casino. Almost 750 leaders from across the air transport industry have gathered for the three-day show, which addresses the theme ‘New approaches for a new world’.

The Power List judges were looking for individuals who are pioneering new approaches that have the potential to improve travel for passengers and make the industry safer, more efficient and commercially successful. 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.

FTE Airline Transformation Power List Americas 2021 – Outstanding Achievement

Matt Muta, VP, Innovation, Delta Air Lines

In an extraordinary year for commercial airlines, Delta has stood out for taking a customer-first leadership approach during the pandemic. The airline launched its new Travel Planning Center – a one-stop guide packed with resources to manage travel requirements – and added more interactive features to its Delta Discover Map that give customers the ability to filter, search and book travel in a couple of clicks. Another prominent example is the Delta FlyReady app, a digital health credential solution that assists customers in scheduling a COVID-19 test that meets destination requirements. Delta is also launching a facial-recognition programme for TSA PreCheck members at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, setting a new standard for the industry as the first airline to build a dedicated bag drop space for TSA PreCheck customers. As VP Innovation, Matt Muta oversees an organisation within Delta that drives innovation through exploration, rapid prototyping, envisioning and the development or investment in new technology, which is why he was presented with the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ trophy.

Rocky Wiggins, SVP & Chief Information Officer, Spirit

Spirit Airlines has experienced significant growth in the past few years, establishing itself as one of the leading ultra-low-cost carriers in the US. At a very fast rate, the airline has brought in new aircraft to its fleet, grown its route network, and introduced innovative solutions to boost its reputation as a technology leader. As part of its “pledge to invest in the guest”, Spirit began developing the nation’s first biometric photo-matching solution for domestic air travel in 2019. Spirit is the first to make it available for domestic guests, and the first to pursue combining it with automated self-bag drop capabilities to reduce face-to-face interaction. Spirit’s re-imagined check-in experience is already installed at LaGuardia Airport and Chicago O’Hare airports with plans in place to make it available in other airports soon. With a raft of other solutions implemented recently, it is clear that technology will continue to be key in support of the airline’s growth, which is why Rocky Wiggins, SVP & Chief Information Officer, Spirit Airlines, is a worthy winner of the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ trophy.

Maya Leibman, EVP – Chief Information Officer, American Airlines

As the Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for American Airlines, Maya Leibman is responsible for all technology efforts including software development, infrastructure, operations and security. Leibman has been in the role since 2012, when she led the systems integration of American Airlines and US Airways – largely recognised as one of the smoothest and most successful airline mergers to date. Leibman accepted her Outstanding Achievement trophy virtually. She was recognised for her efforts in leading the airline’s broader transformation push by putting in place next generation strategic initiatives, including transitioning to the cloud, advanced analytics, machine learning and the advancement of DevOps tools and principles. During the pandemic, American Airlines quickly recognised the need for a completely touchless check-in experience. Applying Delivery Transformation principles, the team was able to install 2,100 touchless kiosks in 230 airports within six weeks, reducing the average session time at the kiosk down to 17 seconds.

See the full FTE Airline Transformation Power List Americas here.

FTE Airport Transformation Power List Americas 2021 – Outstanding Achievement

Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has accelerated its approach to innovation and transformative actions to continue its business operations during and post-pandemic conditions, rather than scale back. As the airport’s Chief Innovation Officer, Brian Cobb is pushing the boundaries of innovation, with recent projects including the introduction of ecological-based surface protectant, autonomous ground service equipment, autonomous floor cleaning robots and a pilot of the “Gita” robot. At the start of the year, CVG launched a new strategic plan called New Heights to leverage ventures, partnerships and collaborations, which led to the airport taking on oversight and management of Oxford Airport in Ohio, which will serve as a micro-lab and a primer for new technology developments. Oxford Airport aims to become an optimum collaboration site and test cell for talent and tech from startups, education, established companies, and governmental agencies. Brian Cobb was awarded for his exceptional leadership in shaping the future of the airport.

Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation & CIO, Vancouver International Airport

In 2020, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) laid the foundations for its new strategy, one that builds on its previous success while steering the airport towards its new goal – “to become a Gateway to the New Economy”. The airport has been embracing innovation and technological change to execute its transformation. A prime example of this strategy is that YVR has become the first airport in the world to develop an accurate digital twin of the airport. The YVR digital twin is a replica of physical assets, processes, or services, and presents a broad range of future possibilities – from assessing how the airport can adjust terminal layouts to account for COVID-19 rapid testing, to testing the effectiveness of accessibility features and optimising its airfield movements to reduce greenhouse emissions. Lynette DuJohn, VP Innovation & CIO, was recognised for her outstanding achievement in leading the airport into the future.

Paul Puopolo, EVP of Innovation, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

To keep up with the swift pace of change, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) introduced its new “Travel. Transformed” strategic plan, focusing on innovation with a collective goal to continuously reinvent the way it operates and to deliver new solutions to the airport’s customers and business partners. As it aims to become the “airport of the future”, DFW has introduced numerous innovation projects from a digital human concierge and food & beverage pre-order solutions to biometrics and touchless tech. As the Executive Vice President of Innovation, Paul Puopolo is a strong believer that without implementation there is no innovation. He is passionate about delivering new products and services that exceed consumer expectations, which makes him a worthy winner of the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ trophy.

See the full FTE Airport Transformation Power List Americas here.


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