JetBlue Technology Ventures partners with Air New Zealand to fuel travel industry innovation

JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV), the venture capital arm of JetBlue Airways, has launched a recent push to help fuel travel industry innovation.


Summary:

  • JTV will enable JetBlue to expand its brand, becoming an airline group more associated with innovation and travel in general.
  • New partners are expected to join the venture between JTV and Air New Zealand.
  • JTV could be attracting interest from other investors for stakes in emerging companies.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which incubates, invests in, and partners with early stage start-ups at the “intersection of technology and travel”, has announced an international innovation partnership with launch partner Air New Zealand.

JTV describes its staff as “travel geeks”, with a healthy mix of expertise in aviation but also in hospitality, regional transportation and operations. “We’ve taken JetBlue’s original mission to bring humanity back to travel and we’re expanding it to an unprecedented scale”, JTV says, adding: “We want to improve the end-to-end experience for travellers everywhere, whether they’re flying or not… And we believe that partnering with game-changing new technology companies is a great way to do it”. One would imagine JTV is also a platform to expand JetBlue’s reputation as more than just an airline, but also a travel brand.

JTV has already invested in 15 emerging companies, including the air taxi company Joby, the predictive flight management company Lumo, and ticket booking revenue start-up Volantio.

“How we help of course, [is] we provide funding to promising start-ups, but we do so much more than that… We give steady guidance, make connections to industry power players, provide proof-of-concept opportunities and, in some cases, incubate start-ups right here in our own Silicon Valley offices”, JTV emphasises, with the company’s nine team members having reviewed close to 3000 start-ups over the past two years.

The recent partnership with Air New Zealand is expected to expand the opportunities for JTV even further for existing and potential portfolio companies. The companies collaborate to build an “internationally recognised technology innovation ecosystem” that will seek out, partner and implement emerging technologies. Air New Zealand also benefits, with the airline to be offered early access to start-ups, as well as an entrance into the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem.

JTV expects to announce other travel and hospitality partners to join the ecosystem over the coming months, with all partners required to co-locate an innovation outpost in the JTV Silicon Valley location.

Partnership likely already yielding benefits as other parties express interest

According to Indian media, JTV is in advanced negotiations with Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of the Indian low cost carrier SpiceJet.

Reports suggest Mr Singh is interested in shared investments with JTV in start-up companies, with SpiceJet not directly involved. However, SpiceJet would most likely still benefit from the partnership through Mr Singh’s apparent interest.

In Jul-2018 Mr Singh confirmed that a partnership was being negotiated with a US airline and “another major American company” for SpiceJet, but the question is whether this is JetBlue/JTV or another company. Mr Singh went on to say that the measure was not aimed at facilitating the launch of services to the US, but rather at improving operations and using technology to enhance customer experience, making a JTV partnership all the more likely.

With companies like JTV, Lufthansa Innovation Hub and IAG’s Hangar 51, it seems airlines are recognising the need to move from just operating flights to a full travel experience. The rapidly developing travel technology space represents a plethora of opportunities that almost any airline can stand to benefit from.