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JetBlue's New HQ: 'An Abandoned Industrial Site Now Transformed'

April 4, 2012 at 4:30 PM | by | ()

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger holds the giant scissors to cut the ribbon

While the country is still fixated on the pilot freakout drama of Flight 191, JetBlue turned the frown upside-down today to celebrate the opening of their new international headquarters. Granted, they only moved down the length of Queens Boulevard in New York City's borough of Queens, but the change of space preludes changes for both the city and for the airline.

You may not even know that JetBlue, now just over ten years old, considered ditching NY for a sunnier spot a couple years ago. Thanks to the efforts of local politicians like good ol' Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and some other wheeling and dealing, JetBlue cemented its claim to the title of "New York's Hometown Airline" by keeping their biz in the Big Apple.

The lucky location? It's the Brewster Building, in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. The place already comes complete with an aviation history, as it was once the factory that produced the F2A "Brewster Buffalo" naval aircraft during World War II (plus a time as a Rolls Royce car factory—bow chicka bow wow). As a passenger, this doesn't really matter to you since it's only JetBlue support staff who'll be heading through the revolving doors. And yet, it's cool to know about these things.

We think it's especially cool because Jaunted HQ is also in Long Island City, as are the HQs and homes of many other travel companies and travel writers (no naming names!). It's a hip place, a fact backed up today by Congresswoman Maloney when she said "it's quickly becoming the place to be," and Councilman Van Bramer who said, "you cannot overstate the fact that Queensboro/Dutch Kills are in the middle of a very real rebirth," and yes Bloomberg, who declared that LIC is "the next great central business district."

Just don't let JetBlue CEO Dave Barger catch you calling their place a "headquarters:"

New York is our heart, our soul. We don't use the words 'employees' or 'headquarters.' They're 'crewmembers' and our 'support center' is a forward-thinking space."

Some other notable quotables and facts we jotted down from this morning's press conference:

· Mayor Bloomberg: "JetBlue is one of our major employers, with 4300 crew in the NY airports and 1000 more in corporate. They help us stay the number one travel destination in the United States."
· JetBlue's total employee count is around 14,000.
· New York is aiming to have 25 million tourists annually by 2015.
· Senator Schumer on JetBlue's decision to stay in NY: "Look what happened when TWA and Pan Am left New York! When you leave New York as an airline, something bad happens."
· Senator Schumer: "...JetBlue, which is the greatest airline we have in the US."
· State Senator Gianaris: "I'm not just a representative of this area; I'm also a customer [of JetBlue]."
· JetBlue's new HQ has a LEED Silver certificate
· JetBlue spent 2000 hours at a nearby building practicing operations, proving to the FAA that they could control their company from this new location.

And now, a story:

Senator Schumer, who has been on the growth of JetBlue from the very infancy of the company on paperwork, took to the microphone to recall his first meeting with David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and former CEO (now founder and CEO of Brazilian airline Azul). Neeleman called the senator over ten years ago and said, "I want to create the Southwest of the Northeast," and he wanted 75 slots at NY airports to do so.

David pointed out to the senator that "you could roll a bowling ball down the runway at JFK before 3pm," on account of the fact that most flights at the time were evening international routes. In return for his assistance, the senator requested that JetBlue's first routes be to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, to improve the upstate service from what was "little propeller planes that'd charge you $800 and maybe give you a bag of peanuts." After securing a deal that gave JetBlue 25 slots a year over three years, Neeleman told Schumer he would begin Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse but not Albany because "it's just too close." Senator Schumer said to himself then: "I've met an honest man." The rest is history.

Senator Chuck Schumer speaks, with Bloomberg behind

The view of the Manhattan and the Queensboro Plaza elevated subway stop, seen from JetBlue HQ

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

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