JetBlue likes to boast that it is New York’s hometown airline, so much so it’s even registered that catchy little phrase as a trademark. But is the siren call of cheaper out-of-state real estate enough to make JetBlue forego its New York roots? Well, not exactly. However, the airline is looking at downsizing its New York headquarters and relocating many of its New York-based employees.
JetBlue looks to make savings & cut office costs
JetBlue is presently headquartered in Queens. Approximately 1,300 JetBlue employees work there. According to a New York Post report by Noah Manskar, the lease on that office space expires mid-2023. With far less cash pouring into JetBlue’s coffers now than is normally the case, JetBlue is “exploring a number of paths.”
New York’s hometown airline recently celebrated its 21st birthday. Since beginning in 2000 with services to Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale, JetBlue has grown into one of the United States’ biggest and most successful airlines. Riding that success, JetBlue expanded, innovated, and won plaudits from the industry and its many passengers. But last year, JetBlue lost over US$1.3 billion in what CEO Robin Hayes called “a year like no other.”
JetBlue expects its revenue to be down between 61% and 64% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter in 2019. The airline is currently experiencing some improvement in bookings but describes present demand as “choppy.” In this kind of environment, it’s hardly surprising JetBlue is considering its options.
In a memo circulated to JetBlue employees last week, JetBlue said;
“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 in Florida.
“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.”
Relocating employees to Florida makes sense for JetBlue
To be clear, that memo doesn’t say JetBlue is looking at shifting its headquarters out of New York. However, it may find office space elsewhere in the city.
“Regardless of how we re-balance our footprint between New York and Florida, our commitment to New York remains strong,” the memo said.
But any potential re-balance may downsize the number of JetBlue’s New York-based headquarters staff by relocating them south to Florida.
There’s some logic in that, as Florida is a significant JetBlue hub. In addition to recently launching a swag of flights from Miami, JetBlue has long had a presence in Fort Lauderdale, where it is one of the airport’s biggest operators. JetBlue Travel Products is based in Fort Lauderdale, and the airline has a training center in nearby Orlando.
In addition to the 1,300 JetBlue employees presently based in Queens, the airline has thousands of more employees scattered across the multiple airports it flies to throughout New York State. In time, that number could rise, according to the New York Post. That’s because JetBlue plans to expand its services out of LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports. Perhaps included in that expansion is the long-awaited and much-discussed service between JFK and Heathrow.
Simple Flying has approached JetBlue regarding any potential moves of its New York HQ. We haven’t heard back before the publication deadline.