One of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers has joined the effort to keep JetBlue in Queens.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer paid a personal phone call to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes following reports that “New York’s Hometown Airline” was thinking of taking off to Florida.
Schumer said he reminded Hayes of the airline’s roots in Queens, where JetBlue has remained since its founding 1998. He also said he and fellow New York leaders worked hard to secure $14 billion for the airline industry in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed this month.
“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,” Schumer said. “Bottom line, I am confident JetBlue will remain New York’s hometown airline for a long time to come.”
The airline has 1,300 employees who report to the Long Island City space and thousands more reporting to Queens’ two international airports
Their current lease at 27-01 Queens Plaza North expires in 2023.
JetBlue, the seventh largest carrier in North America, started in Kew Gardens before moving to Long Island City in 2010. The company received a slew of incentives from New York City and state at the time, fueling speculation that the leaked memo was the start of a new attempt to extract concessions from a city eager to keep the company in Queens.
The airline has also contended with huge losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, for example, the company reported a nearly 90 percent loss of revenue as air travel ground to a near halt. Revenue decreased by 76 percent in the third quarter of 2020 and 67 percent in the fourth quarter.
In a statement to the Eagle, JetBlue did not rule out fleeing Queens when their lease expires. The company said they “expect to have a plan in place later this year.”