PIT, British Airways’ Parent Launch Innovation Partnership

IAG will test, grow new aviation technology in Pittsburgh with xBridge program

By Matt Neistei

Published April 18, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


When British Airways returned to Pittsburgh in 2019 after a 20-year hiatus, officials from both the airline and Pittsburgh International Airport expressed optimism that it was just the first step in a growing partnership.

On Tuesday, that collaboration took its latest major step forward.

Officials from International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, joined PIT executives and local government and business leaders to announce a new chapter in their partnership: testing and growing innovations for IAG’s airline brands and the aviation industry at PIT.

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“We are committed to driving innovation and working with like-minded airports and suppliers to drive change within our industry, for the benefit of customers. We look forward to working with the PIT team to explore exciting new solutions with the robotics and tech community,” said Gurm Nijjer, IAG’s senior vice president of Americas, who represented the company at the announcement in PIT’s Landside terminal.

IAG, one of the world’s largest airline groups, with brands such as Aer Lingus and Iberia in addition to BA, will leverage PIT’s xBridge innovation program, which has a proven record of working with both established and startup technology companies to develop tech solutions for aviation and other industries onsite at PIT.

The unique agreement builds upon IAG and PIT’s shared vision to drive the aviation industry forward by developing technological solutions to safety, customer experience and operational efficiency challenges for both airlines and airports, officials said.

Gurm Nijjer, IAG’s senior vice president of Americas, delivers remarks in PIT’s Landside Terminal highlighting the new partnership’s goal to test and grow technology innovations for the aviation industry. (Photo by Evan Dougherty)

“PIT is at the forefront of aviation innovation and recognizes the power our airport can provide to develop and test automation for this industry and beyond,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

“We are thrilled to partner with IAG, an aviation leader and innovator itself, to develop groundbreaking solutions for its passengers and the industry right here at xBridge. I’m excited about the possibilities with this special partnership, and I thank IAG for selecting PIT as a partner for innovation.”

The announcement comes less than a week before BA’s four-days-a-week nonstop service from PIT to London Heathrow adds a fifth flight; the service increases to six days a week in May.

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That air service relationship served as the bedrock for the innovation agreement, officials said. PIT’s success as a test bed for a wide variety of innovative applications—both inside and outside its terminals—increased the appeal for IAG, which identified the airport as a key partner with whom to cultivate additional technological advancements.

“Airlines and airports have a symbiotic relationship, and we see that those who work closely together unlock the most value and efficiencies, and better serve their mutual customer which is the passenger,” said Daniel Coleman, CEO, Future Travel Experience. “Technology holds so much potential to advance our industry and the best innovation is always collaborative innovation, which is why I am so glad to see this partnership announced here in Pittsburgh—the robotics capital of the world.”

FTE is one of the organizers of the first-ever Aviation & Robotics Summit, which opens later Tuesday night near Pittsburgh’s Robotics Row and aims to achieve partnerships akin to IAG and PIT’s.

“Pittsburgh’s tech economy is known as a world leader, and we are so pleased to welcome a global company like IAG—which has driven innovation throughout the aviation industry—to partner with PIT’s successful xBridge program,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

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