JetBlue Values Security in (and above) the Clouds

Understanding the importance of data security is essential for JetBlue. It also understands how to balance a hefty responsibility without creating more burdens for its passengers.

Information security is extremely important to all companies, especially those that travel around the country at 36,000 feet.

JetBlue, the sixth-largest commercial airline in the United States, prides itself on creating a fun, passenger-first experience for its customers, but in a day and age when both sensitive passenger and company information is transferred via digital clouds, it takes extra work to ensure that passenger data is safe as the planes JetBlue flies through the sky.

Julie Porro assumed the role of chief information security officer at JetBlue in May 2017, following time spent protecting information at both Deutsche Bank and Citi Bank. She tells Sync that, though she didn’t have a strong desire to leave the financial industry, the people and culture at JetBlue ultimately won her over.

Now charged with protecting the security of the airline—and the data of both the company and its passengers—Porro says one of her constant challenges is to instill a sense of security and safety without sacrificing the fun culture the airline has provided its passengers.

To its credit, JetBlue has offered a wave of creative solutions to manage the data of its passengers and employees while also working to make the travel experience easier for everyone.

In March 2018, Otka Inc., an independent provider of secure identity management and single sign-on applications, announced that JetBlue had chosen the Otka Identity Cloud to support the airline’s digital transformation. Although neither party provided details on what the collaboration would specifically provide, Eash Sundaram, JetBlue’s executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer, said in a statement that the airline’s use of the Otka Identity Cloud would make customers’ experience more personal, helpful, simple, and secure.

The move follows JetBlue’s decision in 2017 to partner with US Customs and Border Protection Agency to test a passenger processing system that replaces travel documents with biometric identification. Passengers can sign up simply by providing a photograph of their faces, and facial recognition technology provided by SITA, a company that specializes in air transportation communications and information technology, then matches passengers to their passport and flight information, while another screen lets them know when they can board the airplane. British Airways and Delta Airlines have also begun testing of this technology in US airports, which all airlines involved say dramatically reduced boarding times. British Airways, in fact, claimed biometric gates at Los Angeles International Airport allowed the airline to board four hundred passengers in twenty-two minutes.

In terms of its own personnel management, JetBlue in 2016 introduced a crew-management system by Sabre that provides crew scheduling, management services, and analytical capabilities. Dana Jones, senior vice president of Sabre Airlines Solutions, said in a statement at the time that the system adapts to the constant change that occurs at an airline and accommodates not only changing business processes but also operations requirements, contractual agreements, and government regulations.

The key to continued success for the airline and keeping its information secure, Porro says, is an effective team. With a data-security team of twelve people that is growing to thirty, she says she is extremely picky in who she brings on board, but she is also always available to provide feedback and dialogue to her team. Instead of micromanagement, she says she relies on guidance as a direction not only for development but also to reinforce how important security is to the company.

Given the creative ideas already generated by the company, there should be no difficulty in maintaining that sense of security while simultaneously engendering a sense of fun and ease for the passenger.  

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