Schumer urges JetBlue to keep its corporate headquarters in Long Island City

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer calls JetBlue boss Robin Hayes trying to get the air carrier to remain headquartered in New York when its Long Island City lease runs out in 2023. (QNS/File)

The Senate majority leader wants New York’s “hometown airline” to stay in New York.

Senator Charles Schumer placed a phone call to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes after hearing the air carrier is considering moving its corporate headquarters from Long Island City to Florida once its Queens lease is up in 2023.

Schumer made his case to Hayes to keep the 1,300-person headquarters jobs in New York City as well as the roughly 7,000 JetBlue employees who report to work at various New York locations including LaGuardia and JFK airports.

“JetBlue has always said it best since their start up in 1998, to their first flight from JFK in 2000 their home, heart and soul have always remained in New York,” Schumer said. “The purpose of my call to Mr. Hayes was simply to remind him that JetBlue’s roots and its future is here in New York. With the critical pandemic relief dollars we just delivered on to help save airlines like JetBlue, and the thousands and thousands of New Yorkers they already employ, the airline should actually clear the runway to grow here, not recede. Bottom line, I am confident JetBlue will remain New York’s hometown airline for a long time to come.”

Schumer added that the just-passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan he helped lead through the Senate included critically needed help for pandemic-hit airlines and their countless workers. The legislation delivered $14 billion in direct aid to the airline industry for payroll extension programs that help prevent mass layoffs, providing some reprieve as the economy and the industry fully recovers from the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Schumer made the call after reading details of a corporate memo to employees announcing that JetBlue was considering options for when its lease runs out at its Queensboro Plaza headquarters.

“We 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 [headquarter] roles to existing support centers,” the memo said. “We now have more leasing options as greater vacancy rates have changed the economics; the role of the office and our space requirements will evolve in a hybrid work environment; and our own financial condition has been impacted by COVID-19.”

The leaders of the Long Island City Partnership and the Queens Chamber of Commerce are hoping JetBlue remains at its present location.

“JetBlue is our homegrown airline and an anchor of LIC and NYC, providing great jobs and deep community support,” Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “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.”

She added that many of JetBlue’s workers live in the area and support local small businesses.

“Based on our diversity, our on-ground transportation system, and our educational footprint, there’s no reason for any business to leave Queens County,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “I look forward to engaging JetBlue management to see what they may need to remain in Long Island City.”

QNS reached out to JetBlue and is awaiting a response.