Just two years after JetBlue opened its gleaming $743 million terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the airline is poised to move its headquarters – possibly out of the state.
Whether or not the company will fly south to Orlando or move its Forest Hills headquarters to another location within the five boroughs remains in question.
“I think there are a lot of factors involved right now, everything from finance to crew wellness,” explained Mateo Lleras, the airline’s manager of corporate communications for international operations.
In a statement, JetBlue said that the lease on its Forest Hills office expires in 2012, while the lease on its smaller Darien, CT office runs out in 2011. The airline expects to make a decision regarding the offices – and the 1,000 employees who work in both – by March of this year.
“Both New York and Orlando have tremendous synergies with the JetBlue brand and business model,” the statement said, assuring that regardless of the outcome, the airline “will always be a New York-based airline with our operational home at JFK’s new T5” terminal.
According to JetBlue, several cities across the U.S. participated in a Request For Proposal process to determine if they would be suitable homes for the airline’s headquarters. But Queens is holding out hope since Long Island City is believed to be under consideration.
“We still have another month and the city’s EDC [Economic Development Corporation] and all of us are very hopeful that JetBlue will retain a presence in Queens and are very hopeful because of JetBlue’s apparent interest in Long Island City,” said Borough President Helen Marshall.
The EDC has offered JetBlue a creative deal with incentives to keep the company in Queens where it started, according to Marshall spokesperson Dan Andrews. Andrews said the Borough President is very concerned about losing the 800 jobs – many of which are held by Queens residents – that would disappear if JetBlue left the borough.
“They started out as a Queens-based airline so we consider them part of the Queens business family,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President Al Pennisi said of JetBlue. “It would be a big loss to Queens County,” Pennisi added, noting that “We would be happy to sit and talk with them and see if we could help them in anyway.”
Meanwhile, JetBlue’s Lleras emphasized that the airline is currently at a “jumpball.”
“We aren’t specifically inclined towards a city or place, and are working very hard to do so,” he said.