MIAMI — JetBlue Airways is well-known for its rather hospitable service, with 32+ inches of pitch standard across its fleet, as well as plenty of on-board snacks and customer-focused marketing. But the New York-based carrier is making a deeper foray into the hospitality business, sort of, with its first hotel in central Florida.
At a ceremony today at JetBlue’s Orlando Support Center, the airline unveiled a nearly-finished hotel, The Lodge at Orlando Support Center, which will house crewmembers studying at the adjacent JetBlue University during initial and recurrent trainings, as opposed to putting them up off-site at various nearby properties.
Speaking in front of a crowd of about two hundred employees, construction personnel, and support staff, CEO Dave Barger touted the Lodge’s benefit to JetBlue’s culture, as the property keeps employees close, allowing for collaboration even during off-times. It’s difficult to argue with the convenience of the Lodge provides, just a seconds-long walk to the main University building as opposed to a circuitous shuttle ride to the offsite hotels.
It seemed that today’s event served a dual purpose, as both a rally for the employees, and a display of appreciation for the construction workers in the midst of constructing the facility. Perhaps a testament to the culture of the company, JetBlue raffled off gift cards, gift bags, JetBlue tickets, and DeWalt drills, as well as more unique gifts like hour-long flight sessions in one of the company’s flight simulators.
The 196-room, 115,000 square foot, $25 million Lodge was originally slated for construction beginning in 2006, but the economic downturn put the project on ice. Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, wasted no time in joking about the building’s somewhat turbulent past, obviously relieved that a physical structure exists today.
The building’s exterior is generally complete, and drywall is hung indoors, so it appears that the majority of the work to be done before next spring’s opening involves installing the building’s interior. Complete with a fitness center, full kitchen, pool, softball fields, and basketball courts, The Lodge at OSC seems like a pretty good place to spend some time, with plenty of opportunities to unwind after intense training days. The property is part of a $110 million investment in the airline’s Orlando facilities, which include the University and a hangar for JetBlue’s former subsidiary, LiveTV.
After various speeches, we all headed outside to watch the e join the JetBlu already mounted on the building, as employees clapped and whistled. A ceremonial final piece after nearly a decade of efforts, displayed proudly on the side of the building.