British Airways bids farewell to Elmhurst

By Rebecca Henely

Britain out, Scandinavia in.

British Airways, the United Kingdom-based airline which set up operations at the Bulova Corporate Center in East Elmhurst in 1987, moved out to Manhattan this weekend, but a Scandinavian construction company is set to take its place.

“We’re sorry to see them go,” said Ed Blumenfeld, president of the Blumenfeld Development Group, which operates the center at 75-20 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst. “They’ve been there since we opened the building and we had a great relationship with them, but all good things come to an end.”

John Lampl, spokesman for British Airways, said the company decided to leave the center two years ago. Having originally set up shop at 245 Park Ave. in Manhattan, British Airways moved into 80,000 square feet at the new center in 1987.

Since that time, advancements in technology have led to multiple downsizings of employees, Lampl said. A major staff reduction came in 1999, when British Airways moved its reservation center to Jacksonville, Fla. The airline once had reservation centers across the country, but the Jacksonville location now serves as the one center throughout the Americas. Eventually the staff, which was once 700 to 800 strong, dwindled down to 200 people in December.

“We were paying an excessive amount of money for an excessive amount of space that we just didn’t need,” Lampl said.

Even more employees have retired or left the company in light of the new move, Lampl said.

The company moved into a 46,182-square-foot space at 2 Park Ave. in Manhattan this weekend, which it will share with other airlines such as American Airlines and carriers in Spain, Japan, Australia, Chile, Jordan, Hungary and others as part of the One World Alliance partnership. British Airways is the first to move into the space.

Blumenfeld said in place of British Airways, Skanska, a Scandinavian construction company, will move in.

Skanska did not respond for comment before press time Tuesday evening. The company’s web site said it serves clients from private individuals to Fortune Global 500 companies to public agencies. It has done work on airports in Europe and the United States.

State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said they were sorry to see the airline go.

“British Airways has always been a good neighbor to the people of Queens, and over the years its employees have been a strong source of economic support for the community,” DenDekker said in a statement.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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