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Long Island City-based JetBlue proposed merger could provide much-needed economic boost to Queens

Long Island City JetBlue headquarters
JetBlue announced its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines that would make the Long Island City-based airline tha fifth-largest in the country and provide a boost toe the borough’s economic recovery. (QNS/File)

New York’s hometown airline is poised to become the fifth-largest air carrier in the nation if federal regulators allow a proposed merger to take flight.

Long Island City-based JetBlue announced on Thursday, July 28, that it has agreed to buy Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, pending a Justice Department review.

“We are excited to deliver this compelling combination that turbocharges our strategic growth, enabling JetBlue to bring our unique blend of low fares and exceptional service to more customers, on more routes,” said JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes. “Spirit and JetBlue will continue to advance our shared goal of disrupting the industry to bring down fares from the Big Four airlines. This combination is an exciting opportunity to diversify and expand our network, add jobs and new possibilities for crew members, and expand our platform for profitable growth.”

The proposed merger comes one year after JetBlue decided to keep its corporate headquarters at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in Long Island City after mulling over a move to Florida. The decision to remain grounded in western Queens came as welcome relief to political and business leaders that worked feverishly behind the scenes to keep the economic engine in Queens with its workforce of 1,300 corporate workers and another 7,000 JetBlue employees who work at various locations including LaGuardia and JFK airports.

“Congratulations to JetBlue on reaching a deal that would make it our nation’s fifth-largest air carrier,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “JetBlue is our borough’s hometown airline, and we believe its continued growth will benefit Queens by creating jobs at our two airports and at JetBlue’s headquarters in Long Island City. Those jobs should be here for the long term, as JetBlue has made a strong commitment to keeping its headquarters in the borough. We in Queens respect those who choose to put down roots here, and that includes our friends at JetBlue, who will always be welcome in the ‘World’s Borough.’”

The budget air carrier was created in Forest Hills in 1998 and has been headquartered in Long Island City since 2012.

“Transportation and travel has always been an important component for New York, and specifically here in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech. “This acquisition of Spirit Airlines by JetBlue makes them the fifth-largest air carrier in the country, and we look forward to having them continue to grow their business here in Queens County.”

In March, Mayor Eric Adams announced during a press conference at JFK that JetBlue would bring thousands of additional jobs to New York City as part of his broader push to revitalize the city’s economy following the devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not only is JetBlue one of our largest home-grown employers, but the company is creating 5,000 new jobs in our city,” Adams said. “I look forward to working with them on a new workforce partnership that will provide more New Yorkers with career pathways and opportunities in this critical industry.”

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a June study showing the transportation and warehousing sector was falling better than others during the city’s COVID-19 recovery and the shift to e-commerce. Queens accounted for nearly half of transportation and warehousing employment among the five boroughs in 2021.

“The pandemic turned this sector upside down, and the jobs recovery reflects the significant changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “Transportation and warehousing are crucial to keeping New York City’s economy moving. As goods continue to be moved throughout the city at record-high volumes and visitors and commuters return, the city, with the help of state and federal partners, should continue working to build a sustainable freight and passenger network to help boost wages and employment.”

It remains unclear how big a boost the proposed merger would have on economic development in Queens where the unemployment rate is at 5.7% as of June, according to the state’s Department of Labor. The comptroller’s office expects it to impact the five boroughs positively.

“Air transport is an important sector in New York City’s economy, but employment in this area is still lower than it was before COVID-19,” said Deputy Comptroller Rahul Jain. “If the merger happens, the headquarters of the firm would be in New York, and that could boost jobs in the industry.”

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