• Travel & Hospitality

Plug and Play Program Spotlight: Accelerate@IATA Works with New Airline Partners and Graduates Three Batches of Startups

GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 4, 2022 - Accelerate@IATA is a travel-focused startup accelerator jointly run by IATA and Plug and Play Tech Center. Founded in July 2019, the program first focused on air retailing and saw great success from its first batch of startups working on New Distribution Capabilities or NDC. The program was briefly paused due to the pandemic. However, from September 2020 until the end of 2021, Accelerate@IATA pivoted to focus on the industry restart priorities established by IATA, including anticipating and stimulating demand, increasing passenger confidence, and exploring new technologies in digital health credentials and sustainability.

The opportunity to expand the scope of the program was vital to ensuring Accelerate@IATA remained relevant and beneficial for startups and airlines as they navigated 2021. It was also important that IATA and Plug and Play had a strong willingness to put resources towards the program during the pandemic.

“Plug and Play has been doing everything we can to support the travel and hospitality industry over the past few years. Last year, we invested in more travel tech startups than ever and continued to run travel-focused accelerator programs, with virtual and in-person components, when possible, in Silicon Valley, Singapore, Vienna, and Geneva,” Amir Amidi, Managing Director of Plug and Play Travel, explained.

“In Geneva, we are proud to work alongside IATA with Accelerate@IATA to educate and assist aviation startups and help airlines increase revenue and operational efficiency, reduce costs, and become more customer-centric.”

According to the Q2 2022 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Economics report, the aviation industry is seeing positive signs in terms of the number of passengers and revenue. In May 2022, the passenger load factor was 81%, up from 68.7% in May 2021, and the financial performance so far this year indicates the industry will return to profitability in 2023. Although there are many challenges airlines will face over the coming months, including rising fuel prices and labor shortages, the positive industry news reflects the same sentiment of those involved with Accelerate@IATA.

This year, Accelerate@IATA has evolved again to meet the needs of the industry, including a new program structure that allows IATA and airlines to work on multiple digital transformation topics per year.

“We received strong feedback from airlines that Accelerate@IATA needed to continue and needed to help airlines become more digitally minded, push forward IATA’s digital transformation initiatives, and encourage new entrants to help manage all the difficulties our industry is facing. It has been really positive to see the progress of the startups and support from our Accelerate@IATA airline partners,” said Stephan Copart, Head of Digital Transformation at IATA.

In 2022, Accelerate@IATA has had seven airline partners join the program under their two partnership levels, First Class and Economy Class (the Accelerate@IATA team uses these terms familiar to air travelers). The First Class partners are Singapore Airlines, Emirates, International Airlines Group, Copa Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, and Korean Air. With IATA, The First Class partners can select the themes for the program and select the startups that go through a curriculum from IATA and Plug and Play to make it easier for airlines to work with them and pilot their technologies. The Economy Class member is Japan Airlines, which has access to the startups in the program and is involved in program events and roundtable discussions.

“We are really excited to be working with such a strong group of airlines,” said Robby Toole, the Corporate Director of Accelerate@IATA. “Over the past few years, it was hard to imagine where we would be at this point, but these airlines have been engaged in the program and supporting us since the beginning. To be able to announce them as official partners this year in 2022 and to see their engagement with the startups is an honor.”

With the help of the airline partners, Accelerate@IATA has been working with startups under three themes so far this year and will be selecting a fourth and final theme within the next month. The first theme chosen was Digital Identity B2C. Five startups with leading decentralized digital identity products and services inside and outside of the aviation industry as well as solutions that will help airlines know their customers, including IDNow, Amperity, Further Network, Trust Stamp, and MATTR were selected. These startups showcased their progress at IATA’s first ever Innovation Day this past May.

Currently, the Accelerate@IATA team is working with startups on two themes: The Future of Interlining and Customer as the Reference: Distribution Benefits. There are five startups working on the Future of Interlining theme:

For Customer as the Reference: Distribution Benefits, there are six startups helping airlines create more personalized offers and orders:

In the last week of July, these startups were invited to IATA’s headquarters in Geneva for a focus week to learn from IATA’s experts on topics such as the Future of Airline Retailing, IATA Standards, the Airline Retailing Maturity Index, NDC Certification, and more as well as being connected one-on-one to relevant IATA subject matter experts.

“Because of the pandemic, this is only the third in-person focus week we've been able to run,” said Kat Morse, the Senior Manager of Innovation and Partnerships at IATA. “You could feel the excitement in the startups and my IATA colleagues as they both got to focus on how the industry can be more innovative. It gives me great optimism for the future of Accelerate@IATA.”

The Accelerate@IATA team and the startups in the program will be showcasing their work at IATA’s symposiums, the World Financial Symposium and the World Passenger Symposium, this fall, and more information will be published on the progress of the program in the coming months on their website: Accelerate@IATA.

If you're in the aviation industry, especially an airline, and interested in joining the program, please contact Robby Toole tooler@external.iata.org.

About Plug and Play

Plug and Play is the leading innovation platform, connecting startups, corporations, venture capital firms, universities, and government agencies. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, we're present in 40+ locations across 5 continents. We offer corporate innovation programs and help our corporate partners in every stage of their innovation journey, from education to execution. We also organize startup acceleration programs and have built an in-house VC to drive innovation across multiple industries where we've invested in hundreds of successful companies including Dropbox, Guardant Health, Honey, Lending Club, N26, PayPal, and Rappi. For more information, visit