The Way to San José: Airlines and The Silicon Valley Effect


Image Credit: Qantas
2Mar Robotics founder Marita Cheng and Qantas staff get ready for the first TEDx Talk take off. Image via Qantas

APEX Insight: The magnetic force that has pulled tech visionaries toward Silicon Valley for decades is now attracting airlines more than ever before. From new flight routes to unprecedented tech talks in the sky, airlines are not only adapting to accommodate passengers who call the US tech hub home, they’re also getting in on the action.

Fueled by the stratospheric growth of Silicon Valley’s tech giants and innovative startups, Mineta San José International Airport is one of the fastest expanding US Airports in terms of passenger traffic. This is not surprising, given that there are around 6,600 technology firms within an 18-mile radius of the airport, including the headquarters of Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google.

Major international airlines are beginning to service Silicon Valley in response to the increase in demand for flights to the area. After discovering that London was reportedly the most requested international destination for flights from Mineta San José Airport (SJC), British Airways (BA) became the second airline to launch a nonstop service linking Silicon Valley to Europe, following in Lufthansa’s footsteps. Starting in May, BA will offer daily flights from London Heathrow to San José, a convenient new route for the 400+ companies based in Silicon Valley that also have locations throughout the UK.

British Airways became the second airline to launch a nonstop service linking Silicon Valley to Europe, following in Lufthansa’s footsteps.

But airlines aren’t just catering to ambitious tech workers chasing the Silicon Valley dream, some of the airline industry’s biggest players are getting in on the action. Earlier this month, JetBlue announced a venture capital subsidiary in Silicon Valley. The airline hopes to contribute to the tech startup ecosystem by partnering with incubators and accelerators in order to identify and invest in the next big ideas. Airbus has also set up shop in Silicon Valley, armed with $150 million to put towards inventing the future of aviation.

The Silicon Valley effect seems to have rubbed off in a different way for Qantas. Last week, during a flight from Sydney to San Francisco, the airline handpicked tech entrepreneurs to attend the first ever TEDx Talk in the sky, covering topics from gender bias to artificial intelligence.

Qantas TEDx
2Mar Robotics rounder Marita Cheng was one of the speakers at the world’s first TEDx Talk in the sky, hosted by Qantas. Image via Qantas

Google has invested large sums of money to create a private aviation infrastructure catering to the tech giants via a holding company called Blue City. Operated by BBA’s Signature Flight Support subsidiary, Silicon’s Valley’s growing influence on the Bay Area’s aviation industry can be seen in the lavish $82 million 10,000 square-foot private terminal, which opened last month.

Register online to attend APEX TECH 2016, June 8-9,  where emerging technologies and the passenger experience intersect.