Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) lyase (SPL) is an intracellular enzyme that mediates the irreversible degradation of the bioactive lipid S1P. We have previously reported that overexpressed SPL displays anti-influenza viral activity; however, the underlying mechanism is incompletely understood. In this study, we demonstrate that SPL functions as a positive regulator of IKK to propel type I IFN–mediated innate immune responses against viral infection. Exogenous SPL expression inhibited influenza A virus replication, which correlated with an increase in type I IFN production and IFN-stimulated gene accumulation upon infection. In contrast, the lack of SPL expression led to an elevated cellular susceptibility to influenza A virus infection. In support of this, SPL-deficient cells were defective in mounting an effective IFN response when stimulated by influenza viral RNAs. SPL augmented the activation status of IKK and enhanced the kinase-induced phosphorylation of IRF3 and the synthesis of type I IFNs. However, the S1P degradation-incompetent form of SPL also enhanced IFN responses, suggesting that SPL’s pro-IFN function is independent of S1P. Biochemical analyses revealed that SPL, as well as the mutant form of SPL, interacts with IKK. Importantly, when endogenous IKK was downregulated using a small interfering RNA approach, SPL’s anti-influenza viral activity was markedly suppressed. This indicates that IKK is crucial for SPL-mediated inhibition of influenza virus replication. Thus, the results illustrate the functional significance of the SPL–IKK–IFN axis during host innate immunity against viral infection.