A new program is aimed at developing new technology to improve the travel experience for the 22 million people who fly in and out of the San Diego International Airport each year.

 The Airport Innovation Lab is a 16-week program that helps small businesses develop and test products and ideas to improve the overall airport experience.

“It really is a way for us to reach back into the community and bring out some really innovative ideas that maybe haven’t been in the airport space before,” said Rick Belliotti, the airport’s Director of Innovation and Small Business Development.

The lab is located in the old Commuter Terminal, which closed in 2015. It looks just like a “mini-terminal,” complete with a ticket counter, gate and baggage belt.

“When we first set up the space, we thought that it would be very good for prototyping but in reality, the companies that are coming in desperately want to get into the terminals, and we want them there. So this space really serves more as a home base for them to operate out of,” Belliotti said.

Five ideas are currently being tested in the Airport Innovation Lab – four related to parking and one geared toward improving travel for vacation rental customers who can’t check-in right away.

“What this company is doing is meeting you at the airport, collecting your bags for you, holding them, and then delivering them to you when you get to your rental property, and then on the backside, picking them up at your rental property and then delivering them to you at the airport,” Belliotti said.

One service developed through the Innovation Lab is already being used at Lindbergh Field as well as Newark Liberty International Airport. It’s a mobile app called “At Your Gate” that allows you to order from a number of different shops and restaurants throughout the airport and have your items delivered to you at your gate.

“We want to put in all of the things that we can to help that passenger be relieved of stress, to enjoy their time here,” Belliotti said.

The services that are currently being tested will be evaluated at the end of the 16 weeks and those with high enough scores will be offered contracts with the airport.

“We have to be ridiculously innovative and creative in how we do things because we do have a very small footprint, Belliotti said. “We’re hoping that the solutions that come out of the Innovation Lab not only help our passengers with their experience but also help us identify ways that maybe we can operate more efficiently on the airfield.” 

The airport will soon be looking for its next round of ideas to test. To learn more, visit here. 

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