JetBlue Airways is looking to relocate its corporate headquarters, even if that means leaving New York.
The discount airline this week began soliciting cities in the New York metro area and elsewhere for proposals to move the Forest Hills, N.Y., headquarters plus departments in Long Island and Connecticut to a single location, said spokesman Bryan Baldwin.
He declined to identify the cities or say how many were asked to submit offers. JetBlue hasn't ruled out staying in the current headquarters in Queens, Baldwin said.
The airline that calls itself New York's "low-fare hometown airline" might find a comfortable home in Florida.
JetBlue has spent about $110 million in construction at Orlando International Airport, including a hangar for its LiveTV subsidiary and a crew training center with flight simulators, classrooms, an auditorium and pool.
"They've committed to substantial investment in Orlando," said Stuart Klaskin of KKC, an aviation consulting firm in Coral Gables. "I'd think Orlando would be one of the top choices."
Orlando, one of JetBlue's six focus cities, gained new flights as part of the airline's expansion into the Caribbean and Latin America. AirTran Airways, another big discount carrier, already is headquartered in Orlando.
Orlando International officials have not had formal discussions with JetBlue about the headquarters, said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell. "We'd certainly welcome the opportunity to talk with them," she said Friday.
About 800 employees work in JetBlue's headquarters, its finance department in Darien, Conn., and information technology department in Garden City, Long Island.
JetBlue doesn't have a deadline for deciding on a move, Baldwin said, but the headquarters lease expires in 2012.
New York has always been home to JetBlue. Founder David Neeleman announced plans for the startup discount airline in the city in February 1999, with strong support from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the state's top elected officials. A year later, JetBlue's first flight — to Fort Lauderdale — took off from John F. Kennedy International, which remains the airline's biggest operations base.
Tampa International Airport officials couldn't say Friday whether the airport or the local economic development department has been approached by JetBlue. The airline is a big player in the Tampa-New York market with seven daily departures to Kennedy, Newark and White Plains.
Steve Huettel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3384.