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The Future of Air Travel? British Airways Says Artificial Intelligence Is Improving Its Service and Calls on AI Experts to Help It Continue This Transformation

  • British Airways is using AI to improve the airline’s operational efficiency, maintenance and  to predict on board food uptake
  • Airline is also trialling automated vehicles at Heathrow
  • Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, is encouraging AI experts to come up with new ideas to make travel more frictionless

With one of its 300 aircraft taking off from somewhere in the world every 90 seconds, British Airways runs a hugely complex global operation, 24-hours a day. Today, its Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, laid down the challenge to artificial intelligence experts to help him transform the customer journey.

Mr Cruz asked delegates at the AI Summit at London Tech Week to help his team of 80 data scientists offer customers new, intuitive services, change the way tickets are sold, guarantee no bags are ever misplaced and replace airport queues with virtual ones.

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO encouraged entrepreneurs and start-ups to submit proposals to its parent company International Airlines Group’s (IAG) accelerator programme, Hangar 51, which sees successful applicants embedded in the heart of the business working side by side with an international team of mentors and experts from across IAG. The 10-week accelerator nurtures start-ups with a broad range of technologies, enabling them to develop and test their products on a global scale.

Mr Cruz also outlined some of the advancements the airline is making using AI to improve the service it offers its customers.

Via Hangar 51, British Airways is currently working with technology start-up Assaia. Its intelligent software captures on video every moment from when an aircraft arrives at the airport to its departure, helping airline workers to see the numerous tasks going on around the aircraft (fuelling, cleaning, baggage and catering loading and unloading) and alerting them to issues that could delay the flight’s departure. ​

British Airways is also trialling driverless vehicles at Heathrow so that in the future the luggage of customers travelling on flights from Terminal 5 will be driven from baggage belts to aircraft on driverless baggage trucks, speeding up the delivery of bags. ​

As our skies become busier, British Airways is trialling a computer system which looks at flight plans, pulls up to the minute data from the Global Air Traffic Control database, and suggests quicker routes – reducing delays for customers. ​

And the airline’s team of AI specialists has designed and created machine learning algorithms to adjust the volume of fresh food being loaded onto individual flights to help meet customer demand and minimise waste.

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO said: “It is important that we deliver the best service to our customers and that’s why we are looking for the best people to help us. We have a big team of specialists but British Airways and IAG Digital are open to new ideas about how we can use AI to try to reduce flight delays, eliminate airport queues or create a more personalised service for our customers - providing them with relevant in-the-moment travel updates or a unique service, like reserving their favourite seat or serving their favourite meal.”


  • Hangar 51 is this year welcoming applications in seven categories:
  • Airport operations and logistics: smart technologies and robotic processes to optimise performance, safety, efficiency and customer experience.
  • Future of customer interaction: wearable devices, self-service technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate passengers’ travel from booking to boarding.
  • Disruption management: innovative solutions and travel management tools to support passengers during disruption that affects airlines’ operations such as air traffic control strikes and adverse weather.
  • Future cargo logistics: analytics, asset tracking and monitoring tools to optimise cargo operations.
  • Sustainability: carbon offset, carbon capture and innovative waste management
  • New products and services: tech solutions and platforms that can offer innovative travel, loyalty and payment options to customers.
  • Wildcard: any new disruptive ideas that have the potential to reshape the travel industry.
  • Start-ups should submit their applications to join Hangar 51 at before August 2, 2019

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