Formed in February this year, JetBlue’s corporate venturing offshoot is headed by Bonny Simi, a former pilot with the airline as well as a three-time Olympian. Simi hopes that her unit can help give JetBlue a significant strategic advantage over its competitors, particularly if aviation faces the same disruptive forces as those currently reshaping the motor industry.

“Innovation has always been part of JetBlue’s DNA, and JetBlue Technology Ventures builds on our history of staying a step ahead of the status quo,” she said. “We will be casting a wide net to find technologies across the travel spectrum that further the award-winning customer-focused experience we are known for.”

JetBlue Technology Ventures is based at the GSVlabs incubator in Redwood City, California, and it is intending to seek out partnerships with incubators, VC firms, academic institutions and other organisations both within and outside of Silicon Valley. These partnerships could be designed to improve customer experiences, increase JetBlue’s operational efficiency or to take the company into new markets entirely.

“The work being done today in the startup community will define travel for years to come,” Simi added. “We can offer our knowledge and resources to bring early-stage ideas to life. We will not limit our thinking to traditional airline operations, and instead consider possibilities at every stage in the travel experience.” As such, JetBlue Technology Ventures plans to work with early-stage startups “at the intersection of technology, travel and hospitality”.

The business has just made its first strategic investment, making available $1m of funding for Flyr, a US-based firm which operates a data-analytics platform for flights. Simi said that, in JetBlue Technology Ventures’ first few weeks of operation it received approaches from “hundreds of startups with incredible ideas about the future of air travel”.

She added: “We chose Flyr as our first investment because they share our belief that predictive analytics can provide value to travellers and will change the travel experience in ways we have yet to imagine.”

Flyr’s CEO and co-founder, Jean Tripier, said: “We are honoured by JetBlue Technology Ventures’ investment in Flyr. The interest we see from leaders within the travel industry speaks not only to the power of our solutions, but also to the utility we can offer to both consumers and travel companies.”

JetBlue’s move into corporate venturing has no doubt raised eyebrows among its domestic rivals. Its decision to create a unit dedicated to working with startups may have been inspired at least in part by the venturing operations carried out by Dutch airline KLM over recent years.