April's Airline-Tech Innovations from Google, Aerocloud and Southwest

Welcome back to our monthly Airline-Tech Innovation Radar, where we spotlight the most intriguing tech innovations shaping today's airline industry. April has emerged as a particularly dynamic month, brimming with more than a dozen relevant product and service launches by airlines, airports, tech providers, and startups focused on enhancing airline operations and retail experiences.

  • One notable development, for example, comes from United Airlines, which introduced a new preferred seat type waitlist within its booking flow. This innovation likely elevates customer experience by offering passengers greater control over their seating preferences.
  • Furthermore, in a noteworthy collaboration, tech giants Amadeus and Microsoft have rolled out a Virtual Airport Operations Centre (APOC) app as part of a new joint venture. Integrated with Microsoft Teams, this platform revolutionizes the day-to-day management of airport operations. It creates a unified communication platform for stakeholders, improving response times to disruptions and facilitating quicker, more effective decision-making through a fully digitalized operations center.
  • Another interesting launch is by European ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air, which introduced WIZZ SHOP&FLY, a personalized online shopping platform. Developed in partnership with online shopping startup InterLnkd, the platform uses AI to generate product recommendations based on passengers' specific travel destinations and previous shopping habits. This innovation aligns with the ongoing trend in the airline industry to personalize the ancillary offerings for airline passengers.

While all these initiatives represent noteworthy strides in Airline-Tech, they didn't quite make our top list for April—simply because this month has brought even more compelling cases to the forefront.

Let's dive into the top three innovations that did make the cut.

Innovation #1: AeroCloud's Enhanced AI Airport Management Systems

OAG Radar April 1

AeroCloud, a cloud-native airport management software startup used by dozens of airports globally, introduced new enhancements to its AI-driven product suite this April.

The launch of AeroCloud Optic, a sophisticated passenger tracking product, along with brand new physical self-service terminals, including Self-Service Bag Drop and Self-Service Check-In kiosks, added significant advancements.

What is so innovative about this?

After several years of successfully providing software solutions to airports, AeroCloud has strategically expanded into physical infrastructure with a fresh lineup of self-service passenger kiosks. This move not only diversifies its offerings but also enriches its impact on airport operations by integrating state-of-the-art software with intuitive, physical touchpoints.

George Richardson, co-founder and CEO of AeroCloud, highlights the necessity for modern solutions in an Airport Technology interview, remarking, "Legacy technology cannot cut it anymore, and that’s why AeroCloud continues to be the fastest-growing platform of its kind."

This is a great example of merging tech and AI capabilities with physical touchpoints that are reinvented from scratch, rather than trying to improve legacy systems that were not built for today's state of technology. We believe this puts AeroCloud at the forefront of transforming airport experiences, showcasing how technology continues to drive the evolution of the airline industry.

Innovation #2: Google’s Carbon Emissions API

OAG Radar April 2

Once again, Google is at the forefront of innovation in the travel and airline booking sectors.

Google has introduced new features across its Maps, Search, Flights, and Hotels products to promote more sustainable travel choices. These enhancements include displaying available train schedules and ticket prices, suggesting public transit or walking options over driving, showing locations of electric vehicle charging stations, and, crucially, providing improved carbon emissions estimates for flights. These estimates are now also accessible through a developer API, allowing any app or website to display flight emissions.

These features are designed to encourage travelers to make environmentally friendly choices by offering accessible information and sustainable alternatives. This initiative addresses the need for clarity on how to travel more sustainably—a topic we have explored in depth previously.

Through these efforts, Google could significantly influence a shift towards more sustainable travel practices, not just for flights but also for everyday mobility needs, such as commuting. This could potentially play its part in reducing the carbon footprint of the entire transport industry.

Innovation #3: Southwest Airlines Partners with Uplift for Interest-Free Financing

OAG Radar April 3

Southwest Airlines has embarked on a unique collaboration with Uplift, a leader in the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) sector, to offer 0% financing on select flights. For a limited time, eligible customers can enjoy interest-free payment options on Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime, and Business Select fares. They can book now and pay over time without any fees or prepayment penalties.

Why we particularly like this move:

  • More Payment Flexibility: Buy Now Pay Later is emerging as a key solution for offering more flexible payment options in the airline industry, a topic we covered extensively in our Airline Payment Primer last year. While BNPL schemes are often criticized for potentially encouraging customers to make purchases beyond their means, offering zero-interest payment plans presents a more equitable approach. It makes air travel more accessible, helping to further "democratize" flying, especially as the fees and penalties typically associated with BNPL are waived, albeit temporarily.
  • Aligning with Consumer Needs: Southwest's decision to adopt BNPL aligns with changing consumer preferences and financial needs. According to Amadeus, about 40% of travelers would consider using BNPL to book their next summer vacation. Even more compelling, almost 70% of travelers indicated that they would be willing to spend more on a trip if a BNPL option were available. This shows that zero-interest BNPL could not only boost airline sales but also provide travelers with more flexibility at no additional cost.

This strategic initiative by Southwest Airlines exemplifies how even the most price-sensitive carriers are adapting to meet the evolving financial needs of their customers, potentially setting a new standard in the industry for how payment options are structured.

Wrapping Up April's Innovations

This brings us to the end of April's edition of the Airline-Tech Innovation Radar. The aviation sector is clearly brimming with fresh product unveilings and inventive partnerships.

Our quest to identify and analyze groundbreaking innovations in the airline industry is ongoing.

Stay connected for our upcoming edition, where we'll delve into more pioneering innovations and assist you in keeping pace with the rapid advancements in Airline Tech.