Home News To Remain On Top, Hartsfield-Jackson Calls For Innovation

To Remain On Top, Hartsfield-Jackson Calls For Innovation

by Holly Beilin

This week, Airports Council International released its list of the world’s busiest airports with Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International taking the number-one slot for the 19th consecutive year. In terms of both passenger and flight numbers, Atlanta beats out Shanghai, Dubai, Los Angeles, and all the other major travel hubs.

The airport is a major draw for companies, both U.S. and international, to base their operations in Atlanta — as well as for talent that want access to easy and convenient travel. It also creates thousands of jobs right here in the city in almost every industry, from tech to operations to retail.

But the airport isn’t perfect— and its slot at the top isn’t guaranteed forever. In fact, the other airports in the top 5 are all growing faster than Atlanta. In order to keep up, Hartsfield-Jackson has to innovate.

“”We’re competing on a world stage. Innovation is critical for us,” says Jai Ferrell, Hartsfield-Jackson’s Creative and Marketing Services Director.

This is the goal of ATL Thinks!, an innovation program powered by Hartsfield-Jackson and designed and operated by social impact consulting firm Amplify 4 Good. The program, which kicked off March 28, asks teams of up to five to use technology to solve challenges currently faced by the airport team.

Spread over two months, once teams are selected, they will participate in a series of ideation labs, hackathons, pitch practice, and a culmination in a pitch competition demo day on May 22. The pitch day will be judged by airport and Delta executives, and the winning team from each division (college students, professionals, and startups with less than 3 years in operation and less than half a million in revenue) will put their idea into practice at the airport.

Though there is no monetary prize, the education and resources teams receive during the program are worth roughly $10,000, along with the chance to see their product in action at an airport that sees over 100 million travelers each year.

The four Challenges being tackled in the Hackathon are:

  • Mobile app redesign

About 70% of passengers walking through Hartsfield-Jackson at any given time are there for layovers. The airport app helps those passengers navigate the behemoth of Hartsfield-Jackson, from finding where to grab a cup of coffee before an early-morning flight to the best spot for a dinner on a long layover. It also contains parking information for Atlanta-area travelers, as well as info on the many art programs the airport utilizes to beautify its hangars and terminals.

An improvement in the app UX and navigation could increase concession sales, improve passenger experience, and streamline the entire often-frantic journey. Plus, it will help you find that delicious new Ludacris venture, Chicken + Beer (hint: swing by Concourse D!)

  • Specialty retail

If you’re like most passengers, you pretty much try to get in and out of the airport as fast as possible. You might grab coffee or a snack, but you rarely stop in the many clothing, jewelry, or hardware stores the airport offers. In not optimizing this, the airport is losing out on a major revenue stream that larger airports in Europe and Asia do manage to capture. This challenge will attempt to develop a tech-enabled solution to make shopping a more significant, and pleasant, part of the travel experience.

  • “Greening” the airport

As a sustainability-committed city (Atlanta is one of the 100 resilient cities!), its crown jewel of the airport should reflect this. Thus, the Department of Aviation has pledged to plan, build, operate and maintain an integrative approach to achieve measurable sustainability results. These include a number of ambitious goals by 2020: to reduce energy consumptio, potable water, and greenhouse gas emission by 20%, become a Zero-Waste Zone, and divert at least 90% from landfills. Can you say #goals?

The team at Hartsfield-Jackson, led by airport Senior Sustainability Manager Energy Liza Milagro, has already put a number of programs into place, including LEED-certified facilities, efficient parking garages, living walls, and sustainability and recycling policies. However, there’s still much work to be done, and any large-scale solution will have to be tech-enabled and conscious of consumer experience.

“Sustainability is sexy! It’s not just for Birkenstocks and granola bars,” says Milagros. “It’s not just about the innovation. It’s about the story that goes along with the innovation.”

  • Delta digital recognition

What is digital recognition? It’s not remembering the URL of Delta’s website; rather, digital recognition means creating technology that allows a Delta passenger to be recognized at different touchpoint throughout their journey. So when anyone enters the airport, they are automatically identified; high-value customers (think those on that gold status level), as well as special needs or disabled passengers, are separated digitally. These passengers are also recognized when they enter other areas of the airport like the hangar, Sky Club, or their gate.

This will help Delta improve the customer experience, streamline operations, help special needs passengers better, and increase brand loyalty.

Apply for the ATL Thinks! program here. And look out for more updates as the teams progress here on Hype.

Photos via Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Amplify 4 Good, and Zero Waste in Action.

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