Eureka Moment: Meet the AVIATIONvsCOVID19 Winners

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Flight Buddy, one of the winning pitches, is a platform that acts like a one-stop shop to minimize physical interactions along the passenger journey.

The AVIATIONvsCOVID19 virtual innovation challenge proves that crisis can truly be an opportunity. Meet the winning teams and the passenger-focused ideas they came up with in 72 hours. Who knows? One of them may just be the next big thing.  This article originally appeared in Expo Daily Experience. Read the full issues and register for FTE APEX Virtual Expo — the platform will remain open as a resource until January 8.

Meet the challenge winners and find out more about the challenge itself in the Startups & Future Inspiration section of the onDemand Speaker Zone, available until January 8, 2021. 

For three days in October, teams from all over the world and different sectors of the aviation industry came together to devise user-centric solutions to aid in post COVID-19 recovery. 

At the end of the AVIATIONvsCOVID19 virtual innovation challenge, the 55 participants (chosen from a pool of 150 applicants), generated over 400 ideas and proposed eight concrete prototypes to the jury — without ever meeting in person. 

“Our mission was to bring back the confidence in the passengers to again hop in an aircraft and fly,” says Aman Bhattarai, a senior consultant with zeroG and one of the event’s lead organizers.

The teams used design-thinking to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the industry since the advent of COVID-19 — and some that already existed — under the guidance of experts in that field. 

“All these ideas serve as an inspiration and as an open source to the aviation community,” adds co-organizer Nadine Meichsner, from Lufthansa Consulting. 

For Bhattarai, the end result is about more than just the big ideas, however. “The aviation industry has always said we stand together during this crisis. But for the first time, through this innovation challenge, the aviation industry actually stood together.”

The Team: In-Flight Insomniacs 

The Product: Flight Buddy

The Pitch:

Despite the aviation industry’s efforts to make air travel safe during COVID-19, the idea of being in an enclosed space and in close contact with strangers still doesn’t sit well with many people. Flight Buddy is a platform that acts like a one-stop shop to minimize physical interactions along the passenger journey. Through your personal device, you can access everything from a map highlighting your seat’s location in the cabin, to in-flight shopping and a digital copy of the in-flight magazine. That means passengers will have to touch less to get the information and services they need. Flight Buddy can even send push notifications advising when your assigned seat has been sanitized, alert cabin crew when you have a query and put you in a virtual queue for the on-board lavatories, helping you to avoid the bathroom line. The app also connects to the in-flight entertainment system so you can control it from your phone. According to The In-Flight Insomniacs, the plan is to produce a minimum viable product in as little as 6 months. 

The Team: COVIDbusters

The Product: smart.ie

The Pitch:

The first step in restarting the travel industry: Getting people to actually plan trips. With COVID-19 however, even for those who want to travel, there are obstacles. Different and ever-evolving restrictions across the globe as well as inconsistent information might take people right out of their comfort zones. Then there’s the fear of booking a trip to a destination that suddenly becomes a hotbed of infection. Smart.ie’s goal is to give leisure travelers an easy-to-navigate platform that helps users find the best travel options based on their needs and preferences. A traffic light system warns of the COVID-19 risk and outlines entry regulations based on the latest available data. By aggregating all information in one app, booking becomes less uncertain. You tell Smart.ie how you like to travel (air, rail, car), where you’d like to go, your budget, what type of trip you’re looking for and even if you have reduced mobility or are traveling alone. The platform’s algorithm automatically suggests the best options, transparently outlining the risks at the same time. If after you’ve booked a trip, your destination changes from a green to a red light, you receive a real-time notification and suggested alternatives. Smart.ie even has its own insurance scheme to cover those situations. Team COVIDbusters has set a target of February 2021 to secure its first round of funding. 

The Team: The Arrivals

The Product: ABC – Arrival Baggage Concierge

The Pitch:

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone excited by the idea of waiting to claim their bag after a flight. With COVID-19, cramming next to your fellow travelers at the baggage carousel is even less appealing. The Arrival Baggage Concierge (ABC), gives you the option of getting your bag another way. You can have it shipped directly to your destination, or pick it up at an airport kiosk or nearby parcel locker. Through the ABC app, which can be integrated into airline or airport apps, passengers can choose from a myriad of different configurations. Prefer door-to-door service on both ends of your trip? Not a problem. Need to change options mid-flight? Also possible. Real-time tracking and notifications mean you always know where your luggage is at all times. If something goes wrong en route, you can get help using the ABC chatbot and even seek compensation through the app. It will even send you a QR code for a free coffee should your bag be delayed. The team behind ABC is already working on a demo and say they have support from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Find them on LinkedIn. 

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