Travel Technology Highlights of 2023

2023 marked a seismic shift in travel– it’s been a year of ground-breaking tech, significant strides towards sustainability, and many more innovations that have redefined the landscape. From schedule meltdowns to hydrogen powered planes, 2023 was the year of using tech for convenience, optimization, and sustainability in the travel landscape. Here’s a look back at the biggest news in travel technology from 2023.


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ChatGPTStarting strong in January, a big story that defined our year was the rapid rise of ChatGPT– giving way to big questions about the role the advanced generative AI would play in travel. In this Travel Weekly article, the overnight innovation was expected to stir interest across consumers and businesses, notably in the travel sector. Professionals from Expedia, Horizon Guides,, and others all discussed the dynamic, exciting possibilities of ChatGPT. Being able to provide personalized customer experiences along with quickly identifying top hotels, destinations, and custom itineraries, ChatGPT was already proving to be disruptive in the industry. 

March: Bloomberg- Southwest Is Modernizing Its Technology With Help From Amazon After Holiday Meltdown 

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Few airlines faced as significant a challenge as Southwest did this past year, and their solution to an earlier bout of technology-induced disruption now stands as a shining example of how to take digitization in stride. In March, Southwest announced its plans to adopt Amazon Web Services to modernize its infrastructure and applications. The airline, scrutinized in 2022 for its outdated IT that contributed to a wide shutdown, completed a large-scale migration to AWS. By powering services, storing data, and running analytics, AWS brought a significant enhancement to Southwest’s operational capabilities. Since beginning work together, Southwest made major strides in their operations throughout 2023 that we expect to continue into 2024, alongside additional updates like a revamped loyalty program and added routes to new destinations.

May: Associated Press- TSA is testing facial recognition at more airports 

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Facial RecognitionSummer travel kicked off in May, prompting a surge in demand for enhanced efficiency and modernization in airport screenings. TSA was just in time for the seasonal travel boom, exploring the use of facial recognition technology in airport screenings through a pilot program. By using advanced biometric systems, TSA was able to automate the identity verifications process faster and more accurately. At participating airports, passengers went through security with a simple facial and ID scan– fully eliminating the need for physical documents. The program operated at 16 airports across the United States, providing a seamless experience for travelers and agents alike. Since then, over 200 American airports have adopted the biometric technologies, according to US Customs and Border Patrol.

June: Travel Weekly- United Airlines plans to deploy air taxis in San Francisco 

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Sustainability was once again a front-and-center issue this year, and airlines across the world grappled with how to meet the rising need among consumers for more sustainable travel options. One such advancement came in the form of all-electric VTOL aircrafts, which United Airlines took a significant step towards by announcing their plans to deploy electric air travel within the San Francisco Bay Area by 2026. By partnering with Eve Air mobility, an urban aircraft manufacturing company, the two launched an all-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) air taxi that will reduce carbon emissions and replace car trips. Technological advancements in the aviation landscape are always striving to lower carbon emissions, but this partnership has proven to be hugely significant in achieving an urban sustainable future. 

July: Hospitality Net- The Disney-fication of travel: can automated tools make guest experience magic? 

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Phone airport updates-1One of the year’s hottest debates also took place during the year’s hottest season. July saw AI take center stage, with a particular focus around how the rise of generative AI could change the book-it-yourself DIY experience. Concerns of losing human interaction arose with the rise of automation– however, Disney’s use of IoT with MagicBands showcased a successful balance between technology and the human touch. Disney showed that personalized AI could cut costs, optimize experiences, and more. The takeaway from this to the travel industry is that while automation can enhance human capabilities, emphasizing a holistic approach with AI and the human touch can create more memorable, efficient travel experiences that we can bring to 2024 and beyond.  

August: PhocusWire- Hotel Payment and Booking Company Selfbook Partners with Affirm 

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High costs have long been a significant barrier to travel for many would-be consumers. Yet, major improvements in payment options have made headlines this past year for making trips more affordable and payments more flexible. In August, Selfbook, a hotel payment and booking company, partnered with flexible payment provider Affirm, bringing adaptable payment options to the hospitality sector. The collaboration featured The Kartrite, Cape May La Mer, and Victor Hotels as the first to be available to book. Affirm’s personalized payments plans showed success too– with over 5% of the bookings in July for these hotels used Affirm. The “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) model has been successful in the retail, service, and other industries, and only proves to hold significant potential in the hospitality industry, with BNPL spending projected to reach $995 billion by 2026. 

Maximizing Flexibility: The Innovative Transformation of Airline Payments| Read  Now

September: FedScoop- Tech Modernization Fund awards $9M in air travel, textile industry consumer protection investments 

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ComplaintModernizing systems has been a major push across the industry. One such example of this was a piece of news from September, when the Department of Transportation and the Federal Trade Commission announced a major change would be coming for consumers. The department received funding of $9 million to the General Services Administration-led Technology Modernization fund– $8 million of it to be allocated to modernizing the systems that track complaints and concerns for air travelers. This investment has not only made it more convenient for consumers to understand their rights and file complaints but strengthens the DOT’s ability to analyze those complaints and find real-time solutions. The solutions were much needed– considering that in April 2023 the DOT saw a 32% increase in complaints from April 2022 (Department of Transportation). These advancements have played a vital role in helping airlines improve overall travel experiences while also ensuring travelers know their rights in the air. 

November: Financial Times- Hydrogen-electric aircraft start-up secures UK Infrastructure Bank backing

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Throughout 2023, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has become a major player in the efforts to decrease carbon emissions. That point was only emphasized with ZeroAvia, an aviation start up securing $116 million in its latest funding round–with high profile investors like Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Airbus, Barclays Sustainability Capital, and more. ZeroAvia’s plan? To refine their engines, obtain certification from UK regulators, and manufacture a commercial ready 40-to-80-seater fully powered by SAF by 2027. With funding totaling over $250 million, the investments indicate that business leaders view their technology as the next big innovation– marking a significant step forward in the pursuit of greener air travel globally. 

2023 has set the stage for an exciting 2024. The continued innovations in greener practices and modernizations position 2024 to be a year of continued evolution and changes to the way we explore the world.