By Bob Kerlik
This article was originally published on Blue Sky News on March 9, 2020.
Fast Company named Pittsburgh International Airport one of 2020’s Most Innovative Companies in the World, the first time an airport has landed among the list of industry-changing firms.
“This is recognition that we are thinking the way the world’s most innovative companies are thinking and we are producing results that rival the world’s best,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.
PIT was recognized for its innovations in the travel industry, including making travel easier for people with disabilities by building a best-in-class sensory room for passengers with autism and developing an app in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University that helps blind travelers navigate the terminal.
“This airport has become an ideas lab for concepts that make flying easier for people with disabilities,” Fast Company editors wrote in naming PIT to the list.
The airport has also announced plans to become the first in the world to be completely powered by its own microgrid and broke ground on real estate development Neighborhood 91, which aims to be the epicenter of additive manufacturing.
Last year’s travel list featured Delta, Skift and Sonder among others for key innovations in the travel industry. This year’s list included Hopper, JSX and Tripactions.
“Fast Company is a publication that is very much focused on innovation in all parts of the economy. They focus on how the world is being made better through innovation and technology and how that interacts with human factors,” Cassotis said.
“The fact that we are in the company of such innovative organizations—like Delta and Skift—is incredibly important to us and really very humbling and flattering.”
According to Fast Company, the recognition honors the businesses making the most profound impact on both industry and culture, showcasing a variety of ways to thrive in today’s fast-changing world.
“At a time of increasing global volatility, this year’s list showcases the resilience and optimism of businesses across the world. These companies are applying creativity to solve challenges within their industries and far beyond,” said Fast Company senior editor Amy Farley, who co-led the issue.
This isn’t the first major recognition of PIT’s innovations in improving the travel experience for people with disabilities, including its sensory room and navigation assistance app, named Presley’s Place and NavCog, respectively.
Presley’s Place is named after the son of airport heavy equipment operator Jason Rudge, whose son Presley has autism. Rudge initially pitched the idea for the room to Cassotis, proving that innovation can come from anywhere.
NBC’s “Today” Show, the Washington Post and People magazine, among others, featured Presley’s Place after its opening in July. An Associated Press story about NavCog, also in July, was picked up around the country.