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The Airport Innovation Challenge: Transform the Traveler Journey


From a single commercial air passenger in 1914 to 3.8 billion passenger trips in 2016, flying has become the preferred choice for longer distance business and leisure travel. Along with this explosion in air traffic has come an exponential increase in the number of choices and touch points that impact the passenger experience. Now more than ever, passengers want to take control of their own journey.

MWAA and 1776 are launching the Airport Innovation Challenge powered by UNION to activate the startup community and identify innovations that will transform the passenger journey. We are recruiting the best ideas that will enhance, attract, retain, and delight passengers to strengthen brand loyalty and shape the future of airports.

The winning startups will each receive $15,000 and they will participate in the three month MWAA Innovation Lab in 1776’s Crystal City campus.

Apply To Compete

Whether your work is in social media, geolocation, image recognition, way-finding or digital customer engagement, MWAA’s innovation team and 1776 want to know about you. We are looking for contributions from startups in the following areas:

Travel Experience: Startups that are developing new ways to connect with passengers and customize the passenger experience. In particular, areas such as digital innovation for ground transportation, retail, traveler profiles, loyalty programs, etc. could greatly benefit from new technologies and ideas.

Digital Decision Making: Startups using data and predictive analytics to improve customer decision making and enhance the travel experience. Airports of the future will need to provide passengers and airport employees insight and tools covering the journey from the home to the curb to the gate.

Cutting-Edge Advancement: Startups using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, biometrics, virtual reality/augmented reality, robotics, and the Internet of Things to create the next generation of airports. Such ideas could be applied anywhere from curb to gate to improve efficiencies, safety, customer satisfaction and/or speed — there are no limits.

Apply To Compete

Want to know more about the program? Read the Smart Highways Challenge FAQ here.

About the MWAA Innovation Lab

The MWAA Innovation Lab will take place at 1776’s Crystal City campus in Northern Virginia over the course of 90 days. Throughout the program, the startups will further develop and test their products and work with airport experts as well as mentors and staff from 1776 and MWAA to grow and scale their companies. This unique location gives startups proximity to MWAA’s key assets, including DCA and Dulles airports. Apply to participate in the MWAA Innovation Lab.

About Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority operates Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road and also manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail public transit system through Fairfax County and into Loudoun County, Virginia. More than 45 million passengers a year pass through the two airports. The Airports Authority generates more than 387,000 jobs in the National Capital Region.

Airport Innovation Challenge FAQs