JetBlue Airways, the Forest Hills-based carrier that continues to grow despite the sluggish airline economy, broke ground for a new 100,000-square-foot hangar complex at Kennedy Airport last Friday.
Chief Operating Officer Dave Barger, along with New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels, Borough President Helen Marshall and other officials, hosted a reception at the future site of the complex, which will be built near the airport’s Medical Center off the JFK Expressway.
Building 179, currently an empty JetBlue storage facility, will be demolished to make room for the complex, which will include a 70,000-sqaure-foot maintenance hangar and a 32,000-square-foot office building for 400 technical support workers.
The hangar complex will cost $45 million and will be completed in December 2004.
William DeCota, the director of aviation for the Port Authority, said JetBlue Chief Executive Officer David Neeleman had the foresight to imagine the discount airline’s stunning success from the beginning. Before JetBlue had flown a single route, Neeleman and Barger pointed at vacant areas of the airport on a blueprint and told DeCota the nascent airline would someday expand on the property.
“We’re not at the same sites you were pointing out, but we’re here today, and that’s impressive,” he said.
Tom Anderson, senior vice president of technical operations for JetBlue, said the airline would continue to grow at Kennedy.
JetBlue’s recent expansion pushed the airport past Newark Liberty Airport as the busiest in the metro area, and employs 2,800 people, many of them from Queens. “The hangar is a major step forward in our ability to grow in New York. We cannot continue to be the best on-time airline without providing a top-notch facility to do such,” he said.
Last year, JetBlue conducted a study and determined 90.6 percent of its flights departed with a full load of passengers, the highest percent for any major airline.
Their efficiency is based on reliability—at the time of the event, the airline had gone 100 straight days without a cancellation of any kind on any of its routes.
That was good news to state legislators who are used to 10-hour car rides across the state. “Blue has always been a color that I liked. I love blue now. When I was in the assembly, I flew to Albany, and a few times it was really tough. This is so important to the development of our state,” Marshall said.
When JetBlue initially offered flights from Kennedy to Buffalo, there was an average load of 500 passengers per day, Barger said. The airline now carries 1,400 passengers daily over the same route.
Daniels, who was representing Governor Pataki, commended JetBlue for introducing intrastate air travel in New York back into the industry.
“I thank JetBlue for its expression of confidence in the state of New York and city of New York in general. Just by introducing the novel concept of competition, the cost of travelling around New York has gone down,” he said.