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JetBlue to keep HQ in Queens, drops move to Orlando

The two-city airline tug-of-war is over.

JetBlue is keeping its corporate headquarters in Queens after considering a possible move to Orlando, Fla.

The company said Monday that it will move about 1,000 staffers from two area offices to a new location in Long Island City. The carrier's main office is currently in neighboring Forest Hills, and it also has a small finance department in Darien, Conn.

The airline has mulled a move out of New York for more than a year. It originally considered four other cities for relocation and recently narrowed the choice to Orlando, the site of its training facility.

To help persuade JetBlue to stay put, New York City offered to invest up to $3 million in the airline's Terminal 5 at Kennedy and to extend $7-million tax exemption. The airline, in turn, said it will create up to 200 new jobs in the city over the next five years.

In a news conference Monday at City Hall, JetBlue chief executive Dave Barger said the cost of moving employees from New York to Orlando was a major factor in the decision to stay. The airline also didn't want to take the risk that some would choose to leave the company rather than move.

"I think it's fair to say that the bulk of [the New York employees] wanted to remain in this area," Barger said.

Moving to Orlando would also have meant a brand adjustment for the carrier, which calls itself "New York's Hometown Airline." JetBlue - the only airline based in New York - is the biggest carrier at Kennedy and the seventh largest in the country.

By mid-2012 its new corporate offices will be in the Brewster Building.

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