JetBlue staying in LIC; plans 1,800 new jobs
JetBlue Airways intends to keep its corporate headquarters in Long Island City and plans to add 1,800 jobs at New York City regional airports, on top of the more than 7,000 existing ones statewide.
Company and elected officials on Tuesday morning confirmed a story first published by the Chronicle Monday night which said the airline wants to stay in the Brewster Building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North, where 1,300 employees work.
“Some people call New York the Big Apple. Others call it the center of the universe. At JetBlue, we call it home,” Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s CEO, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our unique brand and culture have been embraced by millions of New Yorkers for more than two decades, and we remain committed to helping bring this iconic city back from one of the greatest crises it has ever faced. 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.”
Hayes thanked U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both for working with JetBlue since its inception and for helping the domestic airline industry as a whole offset the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Back in March a leaked internal memo said the company was considering moving at least some jobs to existing JetBlue operations in Florida at Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. The company told the Chronicle at the time and again in June that it was examining staying put as well as other real estate options in Florida and elsewhere in New York City.
Schumer lobbied hard to keep the airline, personally reaching out to Hayes.
“Today’s announcements from JetBlue affirm New York’s continued recovery from the darkest days of the pandemic,” Schumer said in the Tuesday press release. “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.”
The company’s existing lease at Queens Plaza in the shadow of the elevated subway tracks is set to expire in 2023. Hayes said the firm is looking to secure a long-term agreement.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards also has been lobbying hard, including a personal tour of the Long Island City site and a face-to-face meeting with Hayes.
“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,” Richards said in the statement. “It was a privilege to work with Robin Hayes and the entire JetBlue team these past few months as I advocated for the airline to stay. Queens is flying high today and open for business.”
Gov. Cuomo, in his statement, also pointed out that JetBlue, already in Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, also is investing in a new state-of-the-art Terminal 6 as part of JFK’s $14 billion tarmac-up reconstruction effort.
Mayor de Blasio said Jet-Blue’s decision to stay is a big boost to the city’s post-Covid economic recovery.
“I’m proud of New York’s Hometown Airline for keeping their team in the greatest city in the world,” he said.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce had been working through several channels since this past spring to keep the airline here.
“They have recommitted not only staying but expanding here in Queens,” Tom Grech, chamber president and CEO, said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “This is only going to build momentum. You have the Flushing waterfront, JetBlue is expanding.”
He said the efforts of such groups as the Queens Tech Council and “one of the most diverse, hardworking areas of the world” will continue to make the borough attractive for business.
U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) also said the airline is a vital cog in the region’s economic recovery efforts.
“New York City is the top tourist and travel destination in the United States, and the current location of JetBlue’s headquarters stands in affirmation of that fact,” she said.
Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership and executive director of the LIC Business Improvement District, said JetBlue has been a great neighbor since relocating from Kew Gardens in 2012.
“Since then, JetBlue’s leadership as a corporation, neighbor and community supporter has been unsurpassed,” she said. “JetBlue’s recommitment to an LIC headquarters, combined with its investment and expansion at JFK, would be hugely impactful at any time, but coming as NYC struggles to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, it is historic.”
Along with the JFK construction, the airline is planning to expand its footprint at LaGuardia Airport as part of the $8 billion reconstruction project there.
Published reports in the last two days, including one in Forbes, say Jetblue also will be introducing low-cost flights between New York and London beginning Aug. 11.
“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. We’re confident in the city’s commitment to bring back NYC stronger than ever on multiple fronts, including public safety, economic recovery, and travel and tourism.”