By Monica Takacs, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Our final leg of the tech mission took us to the beautiful headquarters of British Airways, located just a few miles from Heathrow Airport. There, we met with BA’s Head of Distribution, Ian Luck, and learned about the role that technology plays in flying over 113 million passengers to 268 destinations annually.

We also met with Dupsy Abiola, Head of Global Innovation at IAG, British Airway’s parent company. Dupsy gave us a fascinating presentation on IAG’s Hangar 51 program. Each year Hangar 51 selects a handful of start-ups to join a 10-week accelerator to trial their innovative solutions within IAG’s Group. Over the 10-week program, start-ups co-work with the teams at Iberia, Vueling or IAG Cargo to run a joint proof of concept which they will showcase to senior management across the Group. Hangar 51 is currently in the 4th iteration of the program and each year has specific challenge areas, including sustainability, robotics, and energy, but also leaves the option for a wild card. The next one launches in April or May of 2020.

We got a lovely tour of British Airway’s Heritage Collection and Speedbird Museum. The British Airways Heritage collection has existed since the formation of British Airways. It was formed to preserve the records and artefacts of British Airways predecessor companies BOAC, BEA, BSAA and the pre-war Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. The collection comprises o an extensive document archive recording the formation, development and operations of the British Airways and its predecessor companies as well as memorabilia and artefacts.

After the tour, we were on our way to Heathrow for our DIRECT FLIGHT back to Pittsburgh. British Airways kindly granted us access to the private departure lounge. Our flight back home was quick and comfortable and upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we got through customs in about 5 minutes. I can’t remember an international flight that has been so easy.

Thank you to British Airways for sponsoring all of the flights of our delegation. Thank you to the UK’s Department of International Trade for organizing an amazing program.  Thank you to BoardBookit, Compunetix, Edge Case Research, GrayMatter Systems, LegalSifter, Lucas Systems, Sherpa Software, Shzoom, Treatspace, and YinzCam for traveling with us. We look forward to your outcomes from the trip and continued business success.