A Think Tank is an ideation group, comprised of strategic thought leaders from across the industry. Under the guidance of each relevant industry advisory council, the team works together to develop new initiatives that could become standards to shape the future of the airline industry.
The IATA Think Tanks aim to bring ideas to the table that will enable industry transformation with the implementation of innovative ideas that can lead to strategic change.



IATA Think Tank

IATA is in a unique position to unite and support stakeholders working together on a common vision that will benefit the entire industry. The intent is to develop ideas that can become industry initiatives, and will eventually become industry standards.

Focus on Think Tanks

The Think Tank usually runs for nine months, starting in January and concluding in September. The team is initially facilitated through an ideation session where they brainstorm ideas. These ideas are further developed throughout the year.

The outcome of the annual Think Tank is an industry white paper, complemented by prototypes or proof of concepts that demonstrate the case for change.

Both aim to stimulate conversation and lead to potential projects that translate into new standards and industry change. For example, the New Distribution Capability – a major industry game changer – was conceived in a Think Tank. The idea was articulated in an industry white paper and built into a project that became an industry standard. 


The members of the Think Tank include interested airlines, partners and other industry representatives with relevant expertise in the Think Tank topic. All members have a natural innovative mindset and shared enthusiasm for industry progress.

The key benefits of participating in a Think Tank include the ability to be at the forefront of industry innovation and transformation. It also includes the ability to work on ideas in a team of experienced like-minded strategic thinkers.

This year, in addition to the AIR Think Tank, IATA launched two additional think tanks: Financial and Digital & Data. All three think tanks consist of airlines, partners, and IATA subject matter experts that meet monthly (virtually) to brainstorm the potential themes and ideas. The output for each of the think tanks will be an industry white paper as well as proofs of concepts that will be presented at the respective IATA industry events.

Airline Industry Retailing (AIR) Think Tank:

Scope: Airline Distribution and Retailing

The AIR Think Tank is currently looking at themes including the future customer retailing experience at airports, discoverable capabilities, and retail intelligence.


  • Airlines: Air France, Etihad, Finnair, IAG, Japan Airlines, KLM, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
  • Partners: Accelya, Amadeus, Discover, Mastercard, Mystifly, PROS, Travelport, Travelsky, Expedia

Digital and Data Think Tank

Scope: The Future Digital Airline

The Digital and Data Think Tank is currently brainstorming ideas in a contactless journey, shopping data, and sustainability.


  • Airlines: Air France, Cathay Pacific, Easyjet, Emirates, Gulf Air, IAG, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, Turkish
  • Partners: Google, McKinsey, Microsoft, OAG

Financial Think Tank

Scope: Cash Management and Payments

The Financial Think Tank is currently brainstorming ideas in payment innovation and the currency.


  • Airlines: Copa Airlines, Etihad, Finnair, Hahn Air, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, United Airlines
  • Partners: Amadeus, Kantox, Mastercard, Visa, UATP, Worldpay

Shaping the Future of Airline Retailing

The AIR Think Tank was initiated in 2018, building on the success of its predecessor, the Simplifying the Business (StB) Think Tank. The StB Think Tank ran for six years and was based on the StB program. When the StB program was closed in 2017, the intent was to maintain the Think Tank but change the scope. That is when the AIR Think Tank was created.

AIR Think Tank 2020

The 2020 edition of the AIR Think Tank refocused its scope to support the industry during the COVID-19 crisis. The team worked on three ideas that are elaborated in the 2020 AIR Think Tank White Paper:

Customer as a reference: Building off the TrulyMe idea from the 2019 AIR Think Tank, this concept leverages technology advances made by the One ID project and extends the use of the technology from facilitation use cases to distribution.
Emerging products and services: This idea looks at retailing in general, with two driving objectives: 1- facilitate the onboarding and integration of API providers (including start-ups) by airlines and 2- improve the retailing capacity of airlines (not limited to ancillaries, but all kinds of products).
Trust and resiliency: Focuses on building customer confidence in the retail experience. The intent is to provide customers with choice and transparency through further unbundling and travel flexibility, but still (re)building a solid revenue optimization model.



The 2019 AIR Think Tank edition focused on three key ideas:

Project Lemonade: focused on extending industry capability to re-accommodate passengers during irregular operations while using real-time requests and response processes.
Project Robot: aimed to alleviate challenges related to high look-to-book ratios by decoupling the offer request from the offer creation.
Project TrulyMe: aimed to allow travelers to share their contact information and travel preferences with any travel distributor or travel supplier with one click.

Read the AIR Think Tank White paper 2019 (pdf)

The 2018 AIR Think Tank edition focused on four key ideas:

Project DNA: focused on the ability if IATA to become a digital certification authority so that all business partners could be properly identified.

Project Honeymoon: aimed to redefine the concept od codeshare and evolve the commercial agreements between carriers in a NDC and ONE Order world.

Project Husky aimed to establish a customer-centric digital travel ecosystemto connect airlines, travel agents, hotels and other retailers where APIs are used as the basic building blocks.

Project Panini: aimed to dramatically simplify the process of distributing and using vouchers by enabling passengers to use their boarding pass to pay for these services.

For more information, read the AIR Think Tank 2018 white paper (pdf).

The Simplifying the Business (StB) program was initiated in 2006. StB was an industry change program that aimed to transform the entire passenger journey through the implementation of innovative solutions. The StB program was the catalyst for the first IATA Think Tank, launched in 2011. The StB Think Tank ran up until the close of the StB program and was used as the foundation for the AIR Think Tank.


Innovative solutions, tangible impact

The cycle for an idea to become an industry initiative takes some time. It could be months, to years. So far, the AIR Think Tank has produced some great ideas that have evolved into projects and will soon become initiatives.

Some examples include Project Panini, that has paved the way for initiatives based on vouchers and incentives as well as Project DNA that has led to work on ID management. Also TrulyMe has evolved into the Customer as a Reference idea this year.

The StB Think Tank was more mature and some of the ideas that were born in the StB Think Tank are now implemented and industry solutions. Some examples include: NDCONE Order and ONE ID.