Is there a list of AvGeek wonders of the world? Probably not, but if there was, the new TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK International Airport was trying from the outset to make it onto the list. Initially I was worried that the project — build around the historic TWA Terminal at JFK — might be a victim of stratospheric expectations. But from the moment I walked into the historic gem of a building it was clear that the attraction was everything we all wanted it to be, and more.
Just like the beautifully restored Lockheed Constellation sitting on the premises, the TWA Hotel fires on all cylinders. It’s as much a museum as a hotel, with tons of exhibits about the jet age’s golden years. The staff is having a total blast, with 60’s-style uniforms to match. There’s even an infinity pool on the roof with an incredible view of the ramp and runways. I mean seriously, how can you beat all that??
If by this point you’re not itching to click the “Read More” button — and see all the photos and videos we took during our visit — we’re questioning your AvGeek credentials. Enjoy!
The TWA Flight Center — An Aviation Icon
Airport hotels are a dime a dozen. What makes the TWA Hotel stand apart? The wow factor all begins with a world-renowned architectural aviation landmark. Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal, opened in the early 1960s and preserved for years after the airline collapsed, has a soaring graceful design that fits in perfectly at an airport.
A quick lay of the land: the hotel is located at the airport’s core, right by Jetblue’s Terminal 5. Only the head house of the old TWA terminal remains, and if you’re arriving by car you can pull right up to it. The hotel rooms are in two newly constructed towers — the Hughes Wing and the Saarinen Wing — on either side of the head house. A walkway connects the hotel and T5, and from there you can walk to the AirTrain to connect to other terminals.
You check in to your room at the terminal’s old check-in counters (duh). There’s staff on hand, but there are also plenty of self check-in counters if you’re in a hurry.
A Monument to the Jet Age
TWA memorabilia and museum-style exhibits fill almost every bit of free space in the main hotel building.
For the dedicated aviation history enthusiasts out there, the exhibits could keep you busy for the better part of an afternoon.
Incredibly, the hotel’s collection has well over two thousand items.
As someone who wasn’t around during TWA’s heyday, the huge collection of vintage destination posters was a fascinating reminder of how many cities the airline connected.
The decor wasn’t the only thing repping TWA’s history. The entire hotel staff was decked out in period costumes. And they were having a blast with it.
Connie and Cocktails
One aviation icon deserves another. And just outside Eero Saarinen’s terminal building you’ll find a beautifully restored Lockheed L-1649A that the TWA Hotel moved heaven and earth to acquire.
Here’s the full backstory of Connie’s renewal and journey to New York, including how she turned heads while rolling through Times Square.
And get this: the hotel turned the plane into a cocktail lounge.
What an amazing way to make Connie a living breathing experience instead of just a museum relic.
The menu was well thought out. Objectively the prices weren’t cheap, but considering we were on airport property — not to mention on a decades-old restored plane — they seemed reasonable.
They even had old-school TWA aircraft seats, perfect for an AvGeek date night.
And don’t worry, they kept the cockpit as-is.
You can’t step inside it, but you can poke your head in through the door from the cabin.
A Rooftop Pool With Runway Views
Somehow, Connie was only the second-best spot at the hotel. The gold medal goes to the restaurant and infinity pool on top of one of the hotel towers.
It offers a breathtaking view of the ramp and runways.
The hotel was near-capacity thanks to the TWA flight attendant reunion going on during the weekend of my visit, so the rooftop was more packed than usual. During the summer I’d imaging crowding could become a problem. But even if there’s a bit of a wait, the result is worth it.
The pool has a front-and-center view of JFK’s Terminal 4, which serves a variety of international carriers.
Wine and Dine
While I didn’t get a chance to try the food myself, I noticed a host of intriguing dining options from full-service restaurants to a cafe and Halal Guys counter on the ground floor.
Mini Details, Mega Experience
The attention to detail on display at the TWA Hotel is impressive. The small touches — like the restored transit lounge seating and the Solari split-flap Arrivals/Departures display — make it feel like you’re back in the 1970s.
Making your plans at the TWA Hotel
Okay we’ve established that this is an amazing place to visit. So when and how should you make your visit happen?
The most obvious time to swing by would be on the first or last day of a trip to New York, especially if you’re flying via JFK. It could potentially be worth a standalone trip for real die-hard aviation history nuts, TWA fans, or people who live a short/cheap flight from JFK.
As a transit hotel if you’re just passing through JFK, the hotel is by far the most convenient one in terms of proximity to the terminals. Price-wise the most basic rooms are around $196/night including taxes and fees. Not all the rooms face the runways. But aware of its audience, the hotel website lets you book a room with a guaranteed runway view, though the price goes up to around $265 for that. The website also lets you book short daytime stays for layovers. Twelve hours from 8am to 8pm will run you $162, and a four-hour stay from 7am to 11am is $128.
Will the TWA Hotel Survive and Thrive?
As great a time as I had at the TWA Hotel, the path ahead of it isn’t an easy one. It straddles roles as a tourist attraction targeted at a niche interest, and as a hotel in a competitive market. Will it do well enough in either domain to operate sustainably? I loved my visit so much that I want the answer to be yes. But it depends on enough people — AvGeeks and others — feeling that the experience is worth the visit.
Time will tell. But here’s hoping I run into some of you aboard Connie some time soon!
Now it’s time for us to hear from you. Would you make the trip to JFK to spend time at the TWA Hotel? Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below.