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Exclusive: Inside JetBlue's Massive New NYC Headquarters

April 11, 2012 at 4:24 PM | by | ()

Last week, JetBlue completed the ridiculously crazy process of transferring system operations from a building in Forest Hills, Queens, NY to another building only several miles down the street in Long Island City, Queens, NY. It was a yearlong project of the utmost detail, a far cry from the last time they moved in 2003 and "balanced computer monitors on chairs to cross the street."

For the historical and political side of what convinced JetBlue to cozy up closer to Manhattan, see our previous post. Right now, however, let's take a look inside the new digs where people work every day to manage 14,000 crew and passenger numbers of greater proportions.

First off, it's not a "headquarters." It's a "support center," if you're to use JetBlue parlance. Furthermore, it's 200,000 square feet on three levels with 1,000 crew tapping away at their desks, walking through concourses (hallways) to brainstorm in parks (casual corner spaces), take meetings in rooms named for JetBlue destinations, and maybe even squeeze in a Playstation game or two. A fitness center and sprawling roofdeck (they haven't thought of airporty nicknames for these yet) complete the place. Overall the design is very egalitarian. Check out the office of CEO Dave Barger to see what we mean.

Now let's say you're on a JetBlue flight and it blows a tire. No biggie—people here are on it. Or perhaps a few onboard TVs are out of service. The customer service coordinators at HQ are proactively issuing apology vouchers to the planeload before your flight even lands and you can tweet-complain about it (something that has totally happened to us).

"We're not just moving metal around the country; there's 150-plus lives attached to that." Them's wise words from a manager in System Operations. And, vice versa, there's careers dedicated to seeing you have a great flight.

Meet Don. Don is a JetBlue Manager of Air Traffic System Control and one of the people here at headquarters who fights with the FAA for your flight's right to take off on time and enjoy a smooth journey.

"We've got twelve monitors for two people," says Don, alluding to how much data his department must constantly process. On one screen, Don can flip through maps of JetBlue destination airports, complete with live airplane movement. His favorite airport to tune into is, naturally, New York-JFK. On another screen, a map of the US with little blips continuing on arced routes, oblivious to the fact that Don knows their every movement, regardless of airline. JetBlue's planes are, of course, blue blips.

To see how Don's workplace has changed since the move, check out these photos on JetBlue's blog of Don at work in the old HQ. And—we thought this pretty cool—the Systems Operation Center is equipped with motorized standing desks. You can see Don rocking out at his above.

Meet Tom. Tom is JetBlue's Manager of Meteorology and Route Optimization. He's been guiding your JetBlue flights around sticky weather situations and into bluer skies for five years now, during which time he's watched JetBlue grow to add "100 to 150 more flights every day." He's previously of both Midwest Airlines and ATA (pour one out on the curb for those dearly departed airlines) and has a crazy story about an aborted takeoff on a brand new ATA 757, way back when.

Tom's got the full spread of computer monitors, sure, but he's not playing FlightControl for iPad or anything up there; he's dealing with situations like the threat of Hurricane Irene shutting down East Coast air traffic. Luckily the new headquarters is "sickeningly triple redundant with safeguards," should any weather directly menace NYC. The windows are coated with film to withstand up to 200 mph winds and there's a saltwater aquarium off on one wall to calm nerves.

When the weather map is an angry red and orange (or, god forbid, purple and white for winter blizzard), Tom'll be here working to get your flight in safely.

You know what? There sure were a lot of empty desks at the new JetBlue HQ and lots of talk of job creation during the ribbon-cutting. According to Don and Tom, the best way to work into a position doing what they do is to begin at an airport itself, in a position like controller or ATC...or Google "JetBlue careers" because—believe it or not—there are some entry-level jobs that'll get you right into HQ. Just be sure to bring the SPF; lunches up on that sundeck will have you looking like you work in Miami rather than the Big Apple.

All of this story and access resulted from our own curiosity and JetBlue was nice enough to indulge us. We've kind of got an airline headquarters series going, so check out our firsthand looks inside Lufthansa HQ in Frankfurt and Cathay Pacific HQ in Hong Kong. Coming very soon: LAN HQ in Santiago and Singapore Airlines HQ in Singapore. Thank you for reading!

[Photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:


Nice work CD. Great pics, been wondering what it looks like inside.