JetBlue Airways, the perennially growing Forest Hills-based discount airline, has received the option of accepting $50 million in Airport Facility Bonds for an expansion at Kennedy Airport, the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced last week.
The expansion would allow the airline to renovate an existing 25,000-square-foot facility for warehouse and support operations, and facilitate the construction of a 107,000-square-foot building that would include a hangar for three Airbus A320 airplanes. The building would sit on land leased from the Port Authority.
In total, the project would allow the airline to create 195 new jobs on site over the next three years. JetBlue currently employs over 1,500 people in the area.
Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the EDC, said the city was delighted at the chance to help the Queens airline expand its operation from its home base. The expansion would allow JetBlue to serve 15 million customers per year.
“This is going to create a lot of skilled workers and we’re helping them by getting them bond financing. Our job is to help businesses stay and grow in the area, whether they’re small or large,” Patterson said.
Gareth Edmonson-Jones, a spokesperson for JetBlue, said the airline has long been looking to both build a hangar at the airport and increase working space there and the bonds would be a viable option for the airline. “We’re going full steam ahead,” he said, and that the offer showed the city “recognizes our success and encourages our continued growth.”
JetBlue’s presence has already had one large effect on Kennedy, its home airport. According to Edmonson-Jones, the airport recently overtook Newark’s Liberty Airport as the busiest area airport thanks partly to the airline. The newest expansion plans would allow the airline to expand a fleet of 37 planes to a fleet of 52 planes.
The bonds would be triple-tax exempt, meaning they would be untaxed by the city, state and federal governments. Andrew Alper, chairman of the city’s Industrial Development Agency, applauded the move and called JetBlue “one of New York City’s great success stories of recent years.”
This is the second major expansion for JetBlue at the airport in the past eight months. In July, the airline reached a deal on a $46.5-million lease with the Port Authority giving it access to all 13 gates at JFK’s Terminal 6 despite complaints from local residents about noise from the busy airport.
In December, the airline moved from its offices at 80-02 Kew Garden Road to the Forest Hills Tower at 118-29 Queens Boulevard, where it occupies four floors. The airline’s growth is considered unprecedented because it comes at a time when most carriers—including US Air and United Airlines, both of which recently filed for bankruptcy—are suffering because of the lagging economy.