JetBlue considering moving headquarters to Florida when Long Island City lease expires

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JetBlue is considering moving its corporate headquarters in Long Island City to Florida when its lease expires. (QNS/File)

New York’s “hometown airline” may be joining the exodus to the Sunshine State after experiencing the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

JetBlue, the budget air carrier created in Forest Hills in 1998 and has headquartered in Long Island City since 2012, is mulling a move to Florida when its lease in Queensboro Plaza is up.

“We’ve called New York home for more than 20 years and are proud to be the only passenger airline based here,” a JetBlue spokesperson said. “Our current lease in Long Island City expires in July 2023. We are now reviewing our options in the current real estate market and considering how our space requirements may evolve in a hybrid work environment post-pandemic.”

JetBlue’s headquarters is currently home to more than 1,300 employees who were recently informed of the potential move, although the company’s plans are still in the exploratory stage.

“We have terrific options in both New York and Florida, and are exploring a number of paths, including staying in Long Island City, moving to another space in New York City, and/or shifting a to-be-determined number of New York-based roles to our existing campuses in Florida,” the spokesperson said. “JetBlue currently has a training center in Orlando and our JetBlue Travel Products subsidiary is based in Fort Lauderdale. We expect to have a plan in place later this year.”

As Long Island City became the fastest growing neighborhood in the nation, JetBlue has been an anchor with many of its 1,300 employees living in western Queens frequenting its bars and restaurants during the pre-COVID era, and they are being counted on to help the post-pandemic recovery.

“JetBlue is our homegrown airline and an anchor of LIC and NYC, providing great jobs and deep community support. They have always believed in our city, and as their industry recovers, JFK renovations and the new LaGuardia are finished, we hope that they will find many reasons to grow here, let alone stay,” Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “We know that so many of their crew members live and work in LIC, and are some of the most engaged members of our community — both civically and as customers of our local small businesses.  New York is going to need to make sure that JetBlue and our major employers find it the easy choice to stay, not the hard one, even as we get back on our feet.”

The Queens Chamber of Commerce has spent the last year trying to help businesses survive during the pandemic. The airline industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors in the nation during the pandemic, but it has shown signs of rebounding lately.

“There are more travelers and I’m seeing more planes in the sky which are signs of a recovery,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “Based on our diversity, our on-ground transportation system, and our educational footprint, there’s no reason for any business to leave Queens County. In fact, we are in discussions with many businesses that are looking to make Queens their home. I look forward to engaging JetBlue management to see what they may need to remain in Long Island City.”

If JetBlue does move its corporate headquarters to Florida, it will remain a power in New York’s airline sector.

“Regardless of our support team footprint in New York, we remain committed to our ambitious growth plans at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark,” the JetBlue spokesperson said. “We look forward to bringing New Yorkers even more JetBlue flights with the low fares and award-winning experience they love.”