JFK’s TWA Hotel: A Fantastic Merging of the Past With The Future

There’s usually nothing noteworthy about sleeping in an airport hotel. The TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport will certainly change that.

Those who yearn for the Golden Age of Aviation now complain about dirty terminals, crowded TSA lines and being crammed into economy’s cattle class. What happened to the time when traveling was romantic?

Although that age may now be gone, those passing through JFK will soon have the opportunity to enjoy what was once the crown jewel of the early days of aviation, the iconic Saarinen TWA terminal built in 1962. The TWA Hotel held a preview on April 16th and the Metropolitan Airport News was well represented at the debut.

“From the moment guests and visitors arrive at the TWA Hotel, they will find themselves immersed in the ethos of 1962’s rich culture, architecture, sights, sounds and ambiance,” said Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR and Morse Development. “The attention to the smallest of details permeates the entire guest room experience, paying homage to the magnificent landmark and special time in American history.”

The big question is, how do you build a hotel with all the modern amenities guests expect and at the same time honor the spirit and design of the iconic Saarinen TWA terminal built in 1962? Tyler Morse’s design team has succeeded in maintaining the feel and look of the 60’s without sacrificing any modern efficiencies and amenities.
Besides all the glitter and glamour that go into these previews, how did it feel to step into the old building and the new hotel for former TWA employees? Roberta Dunn and Ed Garcia of Metropolitan Airport News staff both had management posts at the old terminal and remember it well. They were on hand to experience the preview of the hotel built on the very place they earned their living more than 50 years ago. Once a busy terminal with all the crowds and confusion that are part of every airport terminal experience, it has become a place where visitors can honor the past, and at the same time, experience a five-star stay.

The hotel’s is slated to open as early as spring 2019, inside the famed Eero Saarinen terminal with two new towers rising on either side of it. Though the hotel has been under construction since 2016, the preview offered a fresh look inside the original 1962 terminal that will serve as the hotel’s lobby and is still under heavy restoration to bring it back to its mid-century modern beauty—as well as a 21st-century modern facility at this game-changing hotel that’s set to turn JFK into an actual destination.

There are high-tech touches, too: Rooms have floor-to-ceiling seamless blackout curtains that fit in a track inside the window, so not a sliver of sunlight will peek through. The room’s window wall is made of seven-panes of glass—that’s 4.5 inches, making it the second thickest in the world, after the new U.S. Embassy in London. It will be the quietest sleep you’ll ever get, assures Morse. Rotary phones—bought one by one off of eBay, says Erik Palmer, the hotel’s managing director—have been retrofitted for international calls. And there are plenty of outlets, all at waist level, either next to the bed—where there’s a USB port—and along the desk, which is built in behind the headboard. (at last, no more crouching down to plug in your phone!).

Everything from the note pads to the water glasses to the toiletries have been TWA-branded (leave extra room in your suitcase for a few goodies). Those not spending the night can pick up the airline-themed amenities at the forthcoming gift shop.
There’s no official opening date yet beyond spring 2019, but when the hotel does open, it’s sure to be a haven for aviation geeks. A rooftop observation deck (complete with a bar) will be open to the public on the south tower’s seventh floor, where guests can watch flights take off and land on JFK’s busy runways. The hotel will have six restaurants, including one inside a restored Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft. There’ll be a pool on an upper level for guests, open seasonally.
All in all, the two companies behind the hotel, MCR and Morse Development, are expecting up to 10,000 of the 160,000 travelers who pass through JFK each day to stop in, spend the night, or host an event in the hotel’s 50,000 square-foot meeting space.
Built in ‘62, closed in 2001, and restored by 2019, the hotel is bringing back all the glamour and luxury of the 1960s—with just enough of the modern luxuries like slick minibars and fast Wi-Fi travelers have come to expect.
I cannot wait for this TWA landmark to be brought back to life.

Click here to read “Back at the Ambassodor Club”

Visit our Flickr album to view more photos from our tour.

Mr. Alba was previously Editor of the Airport Press for 12 years covering both local as well as global aviation news. Prior to this, Mr. Alba had Executive positions in Systems Engineering and Marketing with IBM World Trade, and had foreign assignments in the Far East and Latin America earning three Outstanding Achievement Awards. Mr. Alba also directed a new function dealing with Alternate Fuels for Public Service Electric & Gas company in New Jersey and founded a Natural Gas Vehicle Consortium consisting of car company executives and fleet owners, and NGV suppliers in New Jersey. Mr. Alba was a founding partner of ATA, an IT Consulting company which is still active in Central and South America. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Alba’s initial employee was the U.S. Defense Department as an analyst.

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