In an effort to modernize the flying experience, San Diego International Airport has admitted five companies — most of them tech startups — into an internal accelerator program to test out their concepts.
The companies will complete a four-month program culminating in a presentation to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and the chance to vie for a contract with the airport. The startups will test out and pilot their ideas in the decommissioned commuter terminal the airport now calls an “innovation lab.” The 3,500-square-foot space is designed to mirror a “mini airport” complete with check-in counters and a baggage claim area. The space will serve as a place where entrepreneurs can test products and services away from the traffic and bustle of the actual airport floor.
The companies in the program include:
Baggage Nanny: a San Diego luggage storage and delivery service that allows customers to book curbside pickup of their bags online.
ParkConnect: A San Diego app that’s like Airbnb for parking spaces. The company allows people to list their parking spots on the app and earn money from bookings.
TravelCar: A Los Angeles-based car sharing app that lets fliers “park for free” by opting to rent out their vehicles to other travelers while they’re away.
Vark Valet: A Southlake, Texas, company that modernized the valet business with an app that leaves no need for kiosks, tablets, key tags or paper tickets.
FreedomPark: An Irving, Texas-based valet parking and rental car valet service.
The airport’s innovation lab has already been a testing ground for San Diego startup AtYourGate, a food ordering app that allows fliers and airport employees to have food delivered directly to their gate— always within 20 minutes. The app went live at the San Diego airport earlier this year, and David Henninger, the company’s president, said they currently deliver 50 to 75 orders per day after seven months of operation. AtYourGate has since received $2 million in seed money and just expanded into Newark Liberty International Airport, where it is doing about 20 to 25 orders per day after two months of operation.
“San Diego International Airport is committed to excellent customer service and innovation,” said Kimberly Becker, president and CEO of the Airport Authority. “We started the Airport Innovation Lab to develop solutions at the intersection of these two imperatives. It is very exciting to contemplate new ideas to address existing challenges, as well as the potential for developing radical new concepts.”