Hamburg, 16-18 October, 2015

Cool spaces induce cool ideas and for a few hours last weekend the ground floor of Betahaus Hamburg was transformed into:

  • an airport security line and duty-free store
  • an economy seat beside a crying baby
  • a champagne glass on the smartphone screen of a first-class passenger
  • a natural-language voice search and booking service for flights and hotels
  • and what just might be your office laptop, open to your Google calendar

To make it happen, we can thank SITA for ibeacons, Airbus BizLabs for in-flight data, IATA’s new NDC API, and a clever Irish developer who almost got a hackathon app to invisibly build a flight booking behind a Google calendar entry for a business trip.

Welcome to to the new world of airline shopping by consumers and airline retailing by the industry.

Goodbye, jargon like “ancillary revenues” and Hello to real stuff to do and buy besides early boarding and baggage shipping.

More than 60 developers on 17 teams gathered at THack @ Hamburg to build what online travel retailing should look like to consumers. Some of those hackers will share their projects at IATA’s World Passenger Symposium later this week in Hamburg.

Included in the band of coders were a few solo artists with major programming chops, if only minimal experience in the current uber-stratified culture of airline merchandising.

Most of teams had three to five members, and there were teams with ties to KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways parent IAG.

Two solo hackers included the fellow who spoofed the airport security and duty-free shop with an iPhone-Apple watch apps.

This was the first Tnooz-produced hackathon themed on airline applications and passenger experience. The developer challenges included mobile, business productivity and “wow” factors for airline sellers and consumer buyers. They competed for more an EUR20,000 in cash and services.

Among the APIs offered was IATA’s first release of its NDC Sandbox – protocols representing the standards the industry has been debating for several years.

Also in play were APIs, software tools and expertise from Airbus BizLab, HP, Hotelbeds, IBM Bluemix, Jet Messaging Technologies, Make It Social, Sabre and SITA.

The standout was a four-person team from Poland called Cometari that swept multiple prizes (and EUR5,250) for an elegant journey-planning application called Meet Me Halfway. They built flights and hotels into a social planning service for leisure and business travel based on Make It Social’s API.

Here’s a rundown of the the THack @ Hamburg winners by category:

  • Best large team (three to five developers): Cometari for Meet Me Halfway, for group leisure/business journey planning.
  • Best small team (one or two developers): Getaway, for all-inclusive weekend city trips.
  • People’s Choice (by vote from THack @ Hamburg developers): tie, Rocky, for a solo developer’s mobile app incorporating SITA ibeacons array to emulate airport pre-security check-in and post-security duty-free shopping; and Cometari.