Flying high with hackathons: How we’re helping airlines accelerate innovation and bring it to market

John Lonergan

Vice President, Airline Digital, Amadeus

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Innovation is at the heart of everything we do. And what better way to foster it than a hackathon? We’ve held several hackathons around the world and each one has brought forth exciting innovations as well as some concrete deliveries for airlines. These hackathons are also a great format to showcase the simple, agile, and open capabilities of the Amadeus Airline Platform.

We started the ascent more than one year ago…

In 2018, we organized the first Digital Hackathon for airlines to show the Amadeus Digital Experience Suiteto our airline customers. At the time, we had already started to open our solutions, moving towards a platform and services approach. The hackathon became an invaluable direct line of communication for feedback from our customers about the solutions we’re building and a great way to build strong, long-term partnerships.

To bring the experience to even more customers, in February 2019, we held the second Digital Hackathon in Singapore.In both cases, seven airline teams starting from the same ‘white sheet’ were able to deliver different working prototypes addressing a variety of business needs and opportunities. To say the least, our expectations were widely surpassed.

What started as a small event in Nice jumped to the major leagues. In June 2019, at the Airline Executive Summitin Istanbul, we included the Hackathon Champions Cup as part of the agenda. The winners of the first two hackathons, faced each other for 36 consecutive hours to take a concept from ideation to realization and pitched it in front of the 300+ airline executives and partners attending the event from all over the world. Both carriers pitched and created very strong applications. In the end, the crowd of airline executives voted for a mobile app by Korean Airthat helped young travelers find inspiration for (and easily book) their next trip using social media combined with popular events, such as upcoming concerts. The app took advantage of the viral effect by making it easy to share a trip to inspire others.

…and we’ve climbed much higher than we thought.

At the end of October 2019, we welcomed nine of our airline partners, including Aegean Airlines, Air France-KLM, China Airlines, the Lufthansa Group, Flybe, Icelandair, LOT Polish Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), and Southwest, for a three-day hackathonat our office in Nice, France. Airline developers, together with Amadeus ‘Dev Buddies’ competed to create the best web application coupled with their own real-time airline data. And for the first time, they were able to use two key capabilities of the Amadeus Airline Platform:the Digital Experience Suite together with the Dynamic Intelligence Hub.

What started as a purely digital-focused event has crossed domains and has, for the first time, included two different capabilities in the scope. The nine airlines which took part in the hackathon were excited with the new opportunities to play with a real-time event detection engine brought by the Amadeus Dynamic Intelligence Hub.There was also great team spirit with airlines and Amadeus co-creating together.

Using real-time data, the Dynamic Intelligence Hub fuels the Digital Experience Suite and together with smart features, they can make airline digitalexperiences extremely powerful. In fact, when the Dynamic Intelligence Hub detects revenue opportunities from a wide range of data sources, they are immediately materialized through screens via the Digital Experience Suite. Thanks to this powerful combination, the airlines came up with ideas around real-time notification, social booking, personalization, upselling options, and simplified booking flows. Overall, airlines were able to bring to their customers, their staff, and their partners the right experience & offer exactly in the right context, and in a consistent manner.

Let's have a look at some of the winning ideas:

SAStainaibility team (Scandinavian Airlines) – Winner of the Amadeus Airlines Hackathon 2019 in Nice

SAS at the Amadeus Airlines Hackathon

Climate change, ecology, and sustainability are more and more present everywhere, and it's particularly important in the home market of SAS. Quoting their pitch, "6/10 Scandinavians believe that air travel has the greatest negative impact on climate change. Every part of SAS is working on ways of achieving more sustainable travel. From the search for innovative technical solutions to the small but important improvements at the day-to-day level. Together, we are taking many steps in the right direction.”

Using the Amadeus Airline Platform, the SAS team introduced a new concept in the airline retailing world: green points. Complementary to its frequent flyer program, the goal of green points is to allow climate-conscious travelers to reduce (and track) their climate impact when booking a flight:

  • Additional green points for direct flights vs indirect flights;
  • Extra points by waiving the included checked-in baggage;
  • Travelers can pay for biofuel.

All of this is fully integrated into their online booking flow and complemented with two adoption-proven techniques: gamification, with the so-called Live Sustainability Score per flight, and social proof, with sharing information from other bookings. All these elements were made possible thanks to the capabilities of the Amadeus Airline Platform,with the Dynamic Intelligence Hub at its core.

Icelandair – Second prize

Icelandair started out with the objective of solving the problem of booking hesitancy, which is measured by them as time spent on a page and a page exit without purchase. The solution the carrier created was to target flights that are less popular, and it involves offering a discount code/voucher if hesitancy is identified. In order to develop the solution, Icelandair used Dynamic Intelligence Hub to manage discount codes and the Digital Experience Suite to apply them into the booking flow. The solution also tells the recipient whether a price rise is anticipated and, if so, encourages a click back. Thanks to this solution, Icelandairwill be in a position to increase their revenues on flights that are usually not full.

Flybe – Special jury award

Flybe wanted to expand its offer by proposing joint air and hotel packaged bookings. They are aware of their passengers’ needs and that booking air and hotels can be cumbersome, often involving multiple sites and windows. Flybeillustrated a use-case enabling a flexible option selection for leisure travelers based on flight and hotel bundles looking at the total trip cost (budget). This meant combining data from multiple sources, and thus multiple transactions. The solution also notified the consumer in real-time of any price changes that might impact trips that the traveler was browsing, potentially as a stimulus to buy. This created a much more polished user experience.

And we’re still climbing higher…

Our hackathons have been a complete hit so far and we’re only just getting started. Stay tuned and follow the hashtag #AmadeusAirlinesHackathonas we look towards an exciting 2020. Our first hackathon of the year will be in Dubai on February 25-27 with the winner taking on SAS in the next Champion’s Cup in June.


Airline IT, Traveler Experience, Digital transformation

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