Hack Horizon Takes to the Skies

Major industry players, including Hong Kong International, British Airways and MTR, come together to deliver the most innovative inflight travel hackathon to date


Hong Kong,
10 May 2017. Hack Horizon
, the first TravelTech hackathon onboard a British Airways commercial flight between Hong Kong and London, resulted in a range of exceptional products and digital platforms that could make travel simpler, safer and cheaper in the future.

Culminating last night with a pitch event at the London Transport Museum, the aim of Hack Horizon was to enable the brightest entrepreneurial minds to connect with travel industry leaders and develop new products and services that could go on to improve the end-to-end customer experience in travel. Global leaders in the industry, including British Airways, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), Heathrow Airport, Travelport, Skyscanner, MTR and Regal Hotels, came together to deliver the most innovative inflight travel hackathon to date and push the boundaries travel technology.

Hack Horizon is the brainchild of Kostadin Kolev, Kristy Hart, Johannes Jaeger and Sandra Sobanska – four inquisitive globe-trotting millennials based in both London and Hong Kong. They first came together through their love of visiting the world and soon discovered they shared the belief that innovative technology could be better applied to streamline the traveller experience.

Thirty-two developers, designers and entrepreneurs from markets including the UK, US, South America and Asia, were selected from almost 700 global applications for the three-day hackathon. Depending on their skill set, the participants were placed in teams of three to five and then asked to develop an innovative travel technology product at airports, hotels and onboard a 12-hour British Airways flight between Hong Kong International Airport and London Heathrow. Unlike many other hackathons, Hack Horizon immersed its participants in the travel experience and gave them direct access to members of the travelling public so they could receive live feedback and focus on solving very real pain points in travel. They also worked in tandem with some of the best industry technologies and APIs and gained support from mentors and experts.

In just 72 hours, the eight teams built a diverse range of prototypes designed to solve the various pain points throughout the travel experience. Ideas included an end-to-end security luggage transfer service powered by blockchain, a smartwatch that leverages deep learning to personalise the passenger experience at airports, a digital service for parents to need to arrange for their children to travel internationally on their own and a chatbot so groups to collaborate on trips and bookings. But it was Destination, an In Flight Entertainment to mobile retail solution that allows passengers to book activities for their destination whilst on a flight that was crowned the winner by the esteemed panel of travel expert judges. LuxExpress, a global traveller network giving passengers access to best-priced luxury duty free, came in second place.

Kostadin Kolev, Hack Horizon’s co-founder, added, “The travel industry is extremely competitive and consequently digital innovation is now high on the agenda. We are delighted that some of the biggest names in the industry came on board to actively support travel innovation through Hack Horizon. Hong Kong and London are two rapidly growing travel hubs, however a lot of the big players in travel have focused on increasing efficiencies and improving their bottom line rather than the customer. The incredible roster of partners we have brought together for Hack Horizon shows a readiness and commitment from some of the leading voices in travel to pursue a new direction. TravelTech can really play a central role in improving the end to end customer experience.”

Richard Tams, British Airways’ executive vice president for China, said: “We are very excited to see so many talented people working towards ideas that may one day re-define the travel technology. British Airways is proud to be a partner to support this cross-continent collaboration that will benefit the industry as a whole.”

Chris AuYoung, General Manager, Smart Airport of Airport Authority Hong Kong, added, “HKIA is committed to introducing new technology and smart solutions that will enhance the airport experience for our worldwide passengers. Hackathons are a fantastic way of engaging talent from outside the airport environment and some of the solutions developed during this one have been truly exceptional. We are now keen to explore how we can help progress them into live initiatives. Hack Horizon further marks our collaboration with Heathrow, who we are working in partnership with to develop industry insights and initiatives.”

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