When Alaska Airlines launched its venture arm Alaska Star Ventures in October 2021, it had sustainability top of mind. Even as it charts a long-term course toward decarbonization, however, Alaska is directing a portion of its venture capital toward addressing more pressing business challenges, according to Alaska’s head of corporate development, Pasha Saleh.
The company has already invested in Assaia, a startup that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to help reduce aircraft turnaround times, and Volantio, a software company that automates the process of identifying and rebooking volunteers on oversold flights.
Now, Alaska is experimenting with a new approach to near-term business innovation in areas such as scheduling and revenue management through a partnership with UP.Labs, a venture lab associated with the mobility-focused investment firm UP.Partners. Alaska and UP.Labs announced the formation of their Airline Venture Lab at theUP.Summit in early October, and provided more insight into their strategies in recent interviews with The Air Current.
UP.Labs’ unique model aims to address core strategic challenges within companies like Alaska by creating startups dedicated to solving them — in the process generating products that can be profitably sold to the broader industry.
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