In its third year, this is the first time the award has been given in two categories – Large Hub and Small to Medium Hub – the latter of which went to Greater Rochester International Airport in New York. SAN highlighted its innovations in environmental sustainability, as well setting up a unique Airport Innovation Lab in the decommissioned former Commuter Terminal.
“Our innovation focus is informed by the unique characteristics of this airport,” said Airport Authority president and CEO Kimberly J. Becker. “Being right next to San Diego Bay drives our commitment to environmental stewardship. And operating on a small, 661-acre footprint drives us to think of new ways to fund necessary improvements, while always enhancing the passenger experience.”
Two of SAN’s unique environmental innovations are its air conditioning condensate water collection and its Good Traveler carbon-offset programs. The former captures water that dripped onto the airfield, posing safety and run-off risks, and recycles it for non-potable water uses. The Good Traveler program – which has already been adopted by other airports – allows the purchase of credits to offset air travel.
The Airport Innovation Lab is a working terminal space where pre-existing ideas can be tested and accelerated, potentially leading to contracts with SAN, as well as entrée to other airports. The Lab will soon engage 10 companies working to solve two challenges – airport parking and helping passengers with unique needs navigate the airport environment. Its first success was launching @YourGate at SAN, delivering food and retail items to passengers at their gates. That service has since expanded to the Port Authority of NY-NJ airports.
The award was presented July 15 at the AAAE’s Airport Innovation Forum in Atlanta. The Airport Innovation Accelerator, which selects the award winners, was established to serve as a hub for business, aviation and regulatory stakeholders to drive creativity and help build the airports of the future.