Aug. 3, 2021 By Allie Griffin
“New York’s hometown airline” will stay in Queens and add 1,800 jobs at New York City-area airports, the company announced Tuesday.
JetBlue will keep its headquarters in Long Island City when its current lease ends in July 2023, despite earlier reports that the company was considering a move to Florida.
The airline has called LIC home for nearly a decade, but it was considering shifting its headquarters to the sunshine state ahead of its lease expiration. However, the airline now plans to remain in the Brewster Building, located at 27-01 Queens Plaza North and the site of its headquarters since 2012.
The company decided to stay put after conducting an in-depth review and competitive bid process, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes said.
“New York is in JetBlue’s DNA and inspires everything we do,” Hayes said. “Our comprehensive review found that keeping our headquarters in the city was the right thing for our crewmembers, our brand, and our business.”
JetBlue will negotiate and execute a new lease over the next few months at the Brewster Building, but the company didn’t say how much office space it intends to rent.
JetBlue plans to “re-design its [Long Island City] office space to be responsive to rapidly evolving workplace trends that have accelerated during the pandemic,” according to a company press release.
Many corporate offices are shifting to work-from-home or hybrid models in light of the pandemic.
JetBlue didn’t specify how many of the 1,300 jobs currently based out of LIC will remain there after the new lease is signed. A spokesperson for the company didn’t immediately respond to the question.
Queens elected officials had raised alarm when an internal company memo, detailing the possibility that JetBlue could leave Long Island City, was published by the New York Post in March.
JetBlue wrote in the March 11 memo to staffers that it was eyeing alternative options to Long Island City, where more than 1,300 employees are based. The options included shifting corporate jobs to Florida, where the company has a training facility and some corporate support functions in Orlando.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called Hayes following the original report in March and urged him to keep its headquarters in Queens.
Hayes thanked Schumer in a statement Tuesday, referring to him as a “steadfast friend and strong supporter since our founding 21 years ago.”
“No one has been there more in the most pivotal moments of our history, leading the way for crucial payroll support during this pandemic through the CARES Act, allowing us to continue our record of never furloughing a single crewmember,” Hayes said.
Hayes also announced that JetBlue would add more than 1,800 jobs at area airports including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. The company will hire more staff to support new flights and destinations it is adding as a result of its “Northeast Alliance” partnership with American Airlines.
The airline plans to nearly triple its flights at LaGuardia and substantially increase flying at JFK and Newark.
“Thousands of new jobs connected to JetBlue’s growing presence at JFK, paired with the company re-affirming its commitment to being NYC’s hometown airline are great news…,” Schumer said in a statement. “I am encouraged that having survived the worst of [the pandemic], JetBlue is adding jobs, reinvesting, and recommitting to New York.”
The announcement comes as JetBlue is expanding its footprint at both JFK and LaGuardia airports.
The Port Authority is set to approve plans put together by a joint venture—that includes JetBlue—for a new $3.9 billion, 1.2 million square foot terminal at JFK, which will replace existing, aging facilities. The development of the terminal will provide additional gates for JetBlue and is expected to create more than 4,000 direct jobs — both on-site and off-site — and direct payroll wages of $1.9 billion, according to the Port Authority.
Hayes said JetBlue remains committed to New York City.
“Some people call New York the Big Apple. Others call it the center of the universe. At JetBlue, we call it home,” he said. “A lot of out-of-town airlines like to talk big about New York City, but as the only airline based right here, no one knows like we do why this city has always been – and still is – such a great place to live, work and visit.”
Queens officials celebrated the announcement Tuesday.
“JetBlue is a valuable corporate partner here in Queens, and I am overjoyed they will keep their headquarters in Long Island City,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “By remaining here in Queens, our borough is connected to one of the world’s largest airlines and entrusted with thousands of jobs that will surely revitalize our economy.”
Long Island City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said today’s news made it a great day for the district and all of New York City.
“I’m thrilled that JetBlue, New York’s Hometown Airline, will keep the heart of its operations here in Long Island City, Queens!” Van Bramer said. “JetBlue’s arrival in LIC over a decade ago was met with great excitement and their sign atop the Brewster building has become an iconic local landmark.”
Other local leaders also applauded the news.
“JetBlue’s decision to recommit to Queens is a welcome one for our borough’s entire business community, as we forge ahead together in the wake of the pandemic,” said Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
“JetBlue has long been known as ‘New York’s Hometown Airline,’ and we are thrilled that they intend to keep it that way, staying right here in Queens, assuring jobs will remain in Queens and providing a special boost to the Long Island City economy.”