TWA Hotel at JFK: Take a Trip Back in Time

1957 "Connie" at the TWA Hotel that opened last year at JFK airport in New York City. Tab Hauser photos.
1957 “Connie” at the TWA Hotel that opened last year at JFK airport in New York City. Tab Hauser photos.

TWA Hotel is a fun trip back to the Golden Days of Air Travel

By Tab Hauser

Trans World Airlines was one of the most recognized names in the golden age of air travel. From 1930 to 2001 the red TWA logo atop hundreds of airplanes touched down in countries all over the world and most cities in the United States.

Guests are met by 1960s dressed employees under old flapper sign
Guests are met by 1960s dressed employees under old “flapper” sign

To reflect its status, TWA in 1962 hired world-famous architect Eero Saarinen to design a futuristic winged terminal as an international hub at JFK Airport in New York.

Tubes to the Gates

It had a large open lobby with views of the runway and airplanes. Its long tubes from the lobby allowed passengers, friends and family to walk directly to the gates.

In 1994 the building was made a city landmark and in 2005 was named to the National Register of Historic Places. In May 2019 the terminal became the centerpiece of a 515-room hotel that opened up opposite Jet Blue’s Terminal Five.

Retro Fun

The fun part of the new TWA hotel is its 1960’s retro vibe. You are met at the door with a parked 1963 Continental Convertible with suicide doors.

Inside the grand lobby is the old “flapping sign” posting the ghost flight numbers, times and destinations of Pan-Am, Eastern, TWA and others that no longer in the air.

There you are met by a sharp-looking man and woman dressed as a captain and a 1960’s flight attendant. Background music for the hotel ranged from Sinatra to Beatles.

Guests wade in the heated rooftop pool with a Singapore Airlines A380 in view.
Guests wade in the heated rooftop pool with a Singapore Airlines A380 in view.

Plane views by the Pool 

After settling we grabbed our TWA bathrobes (although for some reason they only have one per room until you ask) and went up to the heated outdoor rooftop pool on this winter day.

Rooms had rotary phones and TAB soda in the minibar at the TWA Hotel at JFK.
Rooms have rotary phones and TAB soda in the minibar at the TWA Hotel at JFK.

Here we waded in the warm waters while watching the planes land, take off and taxi in front of us. Some guests were enjoying cocktails in the pool that came from the “Apres Ski” themed bar there.

Wondering Around

Walking around the hotel there are a few interesting things to see. The hotel museum had flight attendant uniforms on display from over the decades. For those into 1962 Pilates, there is a room decked out as an oversized game of Twister you can play in.

Drinks inside the 1957 Connie
Drinks inside the 1957 Connie

Check-in is modern and quick using an IPad station. You are then directed to walk through one of the two long red-carpeted tubes to the elevators taking you to your room.

We upgraded to a runway view room that was whisper quiet due to the thickest glass I have ever seen.

The room came with TWA pencils, a rotary phone and a minibar complete with cans of Tab soda, a name I am partial too.

1962 Living Room

Off one of the tubes is a fully furnished 1962 living room. Sitting on the couch reminded me of my parent’s place when I was a kid.

Near the living room is a re-creation of the architect’s office for the building.  Surrounding the big open lobby are areas to lounge including a few places that are hidden into little alcoves decorated with old TWA travel posters.

For those who want to work out, the TWA Hotel claims to have the world’s largest hotel gym at 10,000 square feet. There is also a very small outdoor skating ring that is opened in the winter.

1960's American living room on display at the TWA Hotel at JFK.
1960’s American living room on display at the TWA Hotel at JFK.

Cocktails on the Connie

A highlight of the hotel in the courtyard is Connie. The Connie is a 1957 four-engine Constellation airplane that TWA owned for a few years. From the outside, it looks ready for takeoff. On the inside, it has been converted to a bar where you can sit on lounge couches or rows of old airplane seats complete with ashtrays in the arm

Visiting the 1957 Connie for a look and a drink
Visiting the 1957 Connie for a look and a drink

(there is no smoking onboard). Keeping with nostalgia, I ordered my first Old Fashioned that was featured on the drink menu.

The plane’s cockpit and navigators station (with periscope window) are still original for the airplane buffs visiting.

Dinner

For dinner, we dined at the Paris Café by Jean Georges. Although the place is called the Paris Café, there is little French influence here.

The menu choices are all over the place ranging from salads, burgers, pizza to eight main dinner courses. We found the food and service very good. After dinner, head to the rooftop for cocktails and coffee and watch the airport night action.

Walking through the original TWA tube to the terminal
Walking through the original TWA tube to the terminal

Wanna Go?

We found our stay at the TWA Hotel fun and convenient for our 5 am flight to the British Virgin Islands the following day. To check out you simply drop the card keys in a box and walk five minutes down the tube to the terminal.

Visitors at the hotel are welcomed to get a day pass or just stop by and enjoy a drink from the rooftop.

For information go to www.twahotel.com

Restored cockpit of the 1957 Constellation airplane
The restored cockpit of the 1957 Constellation airplane
The TWA Museum featured flight attendant uniforms
The TWA Museum features flight attendant uniforms