San Diego International Airport Seeks Innovators To Improve Parking, Customer Mobility
San Diego International Airport is putting out a call for ideas to serve the millions of people that pass through its gates. Business is booming according to a recent report by the San Diego Tourism Authority. Airport travel from January through March rose more than 8 percent from the previous year. Of the 7.6 million people who visited San Diego during that period, one in three passed through the airport.
"As an airport, we are a huge economic factor here," said Rick Belliotti, director of Innovation and Small Business Development for San Diego International Airport. "We want to make sure we continue that value that we provide to our community."
Belliotti believes the next big customer service breakthrough will be developed in a place that saw its last flight in 2015. The airport's old commuter terminal now houses the Innovation Lab. The space features ticket gates, real-time flight information and a luggage carousel held over from its past life. This summer, the repurposed area will be home to nearly a dozen companies developing ideas for airport parking and customer mobility.
"One of the things I've kind of tried to caution about is thinking about innovation as technology only," Belliotti said. "Someone may have a new process or a new way of doing things and looking at it like we haven't done before."
While the Innovation Lab will be working with several entrepreneurs, it already has one successful test case. For the past couple of years, Belliotti's team has worked with At Your Gate.
"We built an app that allows passengers, flight attendants, pilots, airport employees to shop anywhere inside the airport," said founder and CEO PJ Mastracchio about the app based delivery service.
At Your Gate launched at San Diego International Airport earlier this year. Mastracchio said he has had talks with other airports about expansion. The chance to sell a product or service not just in San Diego, but potentially in airports around the world, is the driving business motivation for companies that find themselves in the Innovation Lab.
"This is a collaborative situation," Mastracchio said. "The accelerator should be able to help the startup and the startup should be able to help the accelerator. So I think having the ability to not only help San Diego, but take what we've done successfully in San Diego and bring it to other airports, that's really the goal of the Innovation Lab."
The deadline for companies to apply for the Innovation Lab's new batch is May 31. The 16-week program at San Diego International Airport will begin in early July.