El Al venture arm and Lufthansa join forces in hunt for travel tech

El Al’s Cockpit Innovation and Lufthansa Systems will select startups and work with them on travel and aviation tech

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative: Travelers standing in line at the departure hall at Terminal 1 of Ben Gurion International Airport (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative: Travelers standing in line at the departure hall at Terminal 1 of Ben Gurion International Airport (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The technology investment arm of El Al Israel Airlines will join forces with Germany’s  Lufthansa Systems to identify and cultivate breakthrough technologies in the aviation and travel spheres, the two companies said.

El Al’s Cockpit Innovation and Lufthansa will together locate and select startups and work with them on relevant developments. They also plan to help the entrepreneurs connect with the industry’s leading airlines to showcase their technologies, the companies said in a statement.

Cockpit Innovation was set up in 2015 by El Al to scout for new travel technologies that can be tested within the company and expose El Al, Israel’s national carrier, to new technologies that it can join with as strategic partners, investing resources and knowledge in technology development.

The investment arm also serves as a bridge between Israel’s startup community and players in the global air-travel industry, enabling entrepreneurs to pilot their technologies with industry leaders and also introduce their products to airline companies with which Cockpit has developed relations.

Henry Chen Weinstein, the CEO of Cockpit Innovation, the technology investment arm of El Al Israel Airlines, left, with Stefan Auerbach, CEO at Lufthansa Systems (Courtesy: Eli Dasa)

Cockpit has invested so far in seven companies from a variety of fields such as AI, Big Data, communications and fintech.

Among the startups Cockpit has invested in are San Francisco based 30secondstofly, which offers users Claire, a virtual travel assistant that uses AI to take care of travel bookings for businesses; Routier, the Tel Aviv based startup that helps hotels, airlines, and cruises to engage with their guests in real-time without requiring them to download anything; and Ramat Gan-based Bidflyer, a real time auctions platform for airlines to help them reduce the amount of vacant seats by offering them at reduced prices to passengers in an auction.

In addition, Cockpit recently became an investor in the second fundraising round of Tel Aviv based AeroCRS, in which the startup raised more than NIS 1 million ($284,000). AeroCRS has developed a software that enables airlines to set up and manage their entire digital operations, distribution and sales system within a short time – sometimes within few days. AeroCRS currently serves more than 50 airlines around the world.

“We are constantly working to expand Cockpit’s global ecosystem,” said Henry Chen Weinstein, the CEO of Cockpit. “The connection between Cockpit and a leader in the worldwide industry such as Lufthansa Systems is undoubtedly a major achievement on the path toward the ability to invest in and support startups that focus on additional sectors in the industry on a global scale.”

International carriers and venture funds globally are turning to travel technologies as mobile devices are becoming the preferred way make travel plans. The global travel technology market is forecast to grow annually by around 8 percent in 2017 to 2021, according to a report by market research firm Technavio.

“The increasing need to automate travel management systems will drive the growth prospects for the global travel technologies market in the coming years,” Technavio’s report said. “Some of the major factors responsible for the growing demand for automated systems from the travel and tourism service providers is to minimize the cost, streamline the routine business processes, increase safety, security, and visibility, automate tracking systems and reduce the operational costs.”

Separately on Tuesday, El Al’s CEO David Maimon submitted his resignation.

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