El Al Welcomes Tech and Travel Startups Aboard “Cockpit” Program to Pilot Their Ideas


    El Al has launched a mentorship program called
    El Al has launched a mentorship program to turn tech concepts for the tourism and travel industry into reality.

    APEX Insight: El Al’s Cockpit mentorship program and Microsoft Ventures in Tel Aviv take a grassroots approach to cultivate creativity in aviation travel tech for the region.

    Have a tickling tech or travel idea for the aviation industry? How would it feel to run that thought by professionals and experts who are at your disposal and, have some financial backing to realize the concept? El Al’s Cockpit mentorship program does just that.

    “We see Cockpit as an integral link between El Al’s resources and entrepreneurs who have a passion for discovering new worlds and bringing travel and aviation to the forefront of technology,” explains a promotional video for the program.

    “Our strategy is for El Al to diversify its portfolio… Later on, we believe that maybe one or more of our start-ups… will do something outside of El Al in the worldwide airline business,” said Nimrod Borovitz, director, Business Development and Fleet Strategy at El Al, while suggesting that mentoring the country’s brightest minds would also help the airline to become a more innovative company, and airline, in the future.

    Ideas for Cockpit can affect any point of the passenger experience including: planning, booking, in-flight experience, frequent flyer membership, airport services, social media sharing, entertainment, cargo and maintenance.

    The final participants will work out of a start-up studio based in Tel Aviv and will receive mentoring from the airline’s experts and network of domestic and international business connections. Ideas will be explored on a beta platform, with El Al to provide commercial, technical, legal and financial support to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

    “In addition, we are working on establishing strategic partnerships with other technology giants including aircraft manufacturers, technology incubators and universities,” says Rafi Dabush, innovation manager at El Al.

    So far, El Al has announced two of the participating start-ups: Shopnfly, a search engine for duty-free price comparisons that allows travelers to shop throughout their journey and have their orders delivered to an airport store, flight or hotel room, and BidFlyer, a real-time bidding platform that allows airlines to optimize ticket sales by offering hard-to-sell seats through auction-like online ticketing.

    A total of 10 lucky start-ups with the most promising ideas on improving the airplane passenger journey will be selected to participate in the program, which will involve Microsoft Ventures in Tel Aviv, a hub that provides start-ups and new entrepreneurs with the tools, resources and guidance to succeed. The organization has only six outposts in cities that have seen a strong start-up culture: Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, London, Paris and Seattle.

    “We’ll be one of the best programs in the area of aviation and tourism,” Borovitz said. “We haven’t seen a lot from this sector besides Lufthansa and Airbus, but we take tech seriously.”

    An earlier version of this article cited a partnership between El Al and Daka90 on Cockpit. Nimrod Borovitz confirmed that the two companies have no collaborations at the moment.