Air New Zealand has struck up a partnership with JetBlue Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of the NASDAQ-listed JetBlue Airways.
The deal, termed an ‘International Innovation Partnership’, will see the two organisations work together to identify, help develop, and implement emerging tech in the travel sector.
Christopher Luxon, CEO of Air New Zealand, said the company is “thrilled” to be at the centre of “he immense commercial and customer experience opportunities emerging from the intersection of technology and travel”.
“As one of the most innovative airlines globally, Air New Zealand has a proud reputation for nimbly being able to seize opportunities and take these to market. We have been growing a terrific ecosystem of global partners as we seek to redefine the future of air travel. Partnering with JetBlue Technology Ventures is an important step in achieving that goal,” Luxon said.
Air New Zealand has won a number of innovation awards over the last few years, including the Best Inflight Entertainment Innovation and the Best Personalisation Innovation awards at the Air Passenger Experience Awards in 2016.
The airline announced last year it had been working with Dimension Data to create software for Microsoft’s mixed reality headset HoloLens that could support cabin crew inflight by displaying customer information.
Founded in 2016, meanwhile, JetBlue Technology Ventures is focused on five areas of opportunity: seamless customer journeys; technology-powered magnificent service; the future of maintenance and operations; innovation in distribution, revenue, and loyalty; and evolving regional travel.
Among its portfolio companies are Volantio – which also took part in the Qantas AVRO accelerator program, Mozio, which helps travellers book ground transport, and hyper local weather prediction platform Climacell.
Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures, said, “We are excited to expand our global reach and impact by building relationships with a like-minded travel partners across the travel and hospitality spectrum worldwide. Air New Zealand, with their focus on innovation and seeking creative solutions to industry challenges, is an excellent launch partner for the ecosystem.”
As part of the partnership, Air New Zealand and JetBlue Technology Ventures’ other ecosystem partners will “co-locate an innovation outpost” in Silicon Valley.
Closer to home, Australian airline Qantas has also been looking to the startup ecosystem through its AVRO accelerator program.
Currently running its second cohort, the program has sought out startups working along the themes of personalised, seamless experiences; live well, feel well; connecting to customers; smarter, safer operations; and innovating without limits.
The airline has also made investments in other startups, this year participating in a $5 million funding round for Mad Paws.
Rob Marcolina, Qantas Group Executive Strategy, Innovation and Technology, explained the investment at the time saying that given almost two thirds of Qantas customers are pet owners, how they care for their pets when they are away is important, and in turn “a key part of their travel experience with [Qantas]”.
Image: Christopher Luxon.