At JetBlue, technology is a sky-high priority

JetBlue doesn't separate technology and commercial interests. (JetBlue)

JetBlue, long known for rewriting the rules of air travel, is not one to shy away from trying new technology. In fact, its chief digital and technology officer is also chairman of JetBlue Technology Ventures, putting Eash Sundaram “at the center of a tremendous amount of innovation,” according to a Forbes article.

For instance, the airline recently tested using selfie boarding passes at Boston’s Logan International Airport and the response was “outstanding,” a Buying Business Travel article quoted Sundaram as saying at the recent Aviation Festival in London.

“It’s still in the early stages—you still have to stand in front of a camera,” he said. “But the next step is you have a selfie on your phone, and it’s validated via NFC [near field communications] and you just go through—so there’s no barriers between you and the gates.”

Silicon Valley-based JetBlue Technology Ventures formed last year as a venture capital subsidiary for travel technology startups, BBT states. It’s working with Flyr, a machine learning airfare predictor, and, in partnership with Boeing, Zunum Aero, which is building hybrid electric aircraft. JetBlue also has an innovation lab in Brooklyn, New York.

“Innovation is a part of our DNA. JetBlue Technology Ventures allows us to fast track innovation,” Sundaram told Forbes.

These efforts go back to JetBlue’s core concentration: culture. They company evaluates its Net Promoter Score, which measures how willing customers are to recommend JetBlue to others, and internal engagement scores, which show employee satisfaction.

“Our scores are high because we are present,” he said. “When we come to work, we leave our titles at home. It is meaningless to have titles running a company.”

What’s more, the company doesn’t separate technology and commercial interests. “When we think of technology, we think of running a great business, not about running a great technology company,” Sundaram added. “It is a different mindset. The biggest drive force for us is a great customer experience. We deliver that through merging a great culture with great technology.”

Trends he’s keeping his eye on include NFC technologies and fintech, or technology that challenges traditional methods of financial services delivery.

“Large banks and credit card companies are tapping into our customer base to access real payment information,” Sundaram said. “We have to find a way to get into that space, partner with them and have real-time connectivity with our customers.”