Fly Back in Time at the New TWA Hotel

Danielle Contray

Jet Age glamour returns to JFK Airport with the TWA Hotel, located in the airline's iconic former flight center. Here’s everything you need to know about how the hotel came to be, its rooms and all the places within to explore even if you aren’t spending the night (for example: a bar inside a plane). The terminal is easy to reach via AirTrain JFK—an intra-airport tram that connects with the NYC Subway system—so you can pop in between flights or on your way in or out of the airport. A layover has never been so stylish.

TWA Flight Center. (undated) Photo: Balthazar Korab

Retro Styling Everywhere You Turn

Eero Saarinen’s building made headlines when it opened in 1962 and instantly became a symbol of the Jet Age. But travelers’ and airlines’ needs changed, and the building closed in 2001 in favor of more modern terminals. It sat empty for almost a decade and a half, spared the wrecking ball thanks to its status on the National Register of Historic Places. Construction on the terminal’s restoration started in 2016, revitalizing its interior and adding outer buildings to house the TWA Hotel’s 512 guest rooms.

Photo: Max Touhey

The building’s history is on full display, with the stark-white winged structure fully restored down to the original departures board and the Chili Pepper Red carpet. An on-site museum, curated by the New-York Historical Society, hosts revolving exhibits of items like flight attendant and pilot uniforms, in-flight menus, glassware and vintage travel posters by David Klein. The vibe is straight out of Catch Me if You Can (which, by the way, filmed a pivotal scene at the terminal).

Courtesy, MCR

Spend the Night

The hotel’s 512 rooms feature cool mid-century design touches. You can write a note at the Knoll desk or curl up in the red Saarinen womb chair next to the tulip pedestal table and ring for a wakeup call on a working rotary phone. The bathrooms are also of the era, with vanity tables straight out of an old Hollywood diva’s dressing room and TWA-branded toiletries bearing the instantly recognizable red logo (including a sweet little carrying case for taking them all home). Nothing seems to have escaped notice or thought, down to the pencils in the airline’s signature red that are custom made at a family-run factory in Tennessee.

Photo: David Mitchell

One of the hotel’s most important features is one you can’t see. Well, you can see through it. Runway View rooms, as expected, look out onto the landing strips—active all day and night. To combat the noise, there’s a 4.5-inch-thick glass wall (said to be the world’s second-thickest) between the runway and the hotel rooms. Thanks to them, you can have a clear view of takeoffs and landings along with a restful night’s sleep. Rooms on the other side of the hotel overlook the flight center.

Courtesy, MCR

Eat and Drink Up

There are six restaurants and eight bars planned for the hotel, with some big names attached. Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will run a revival of the Paris Café, located in the same space as its predecessor. The restaurant’s menu is inspired by dishes served on TWA flights—back when an in-flight meal was considered a delicacy. Among the more casual options at the hotel: local food vendors like Halal Guys and Empanada Mama in the Departures Hall, plus Intelligentsia coffee carts throughout the spot.

The terminal’s bars are another reason to make a pit stop before or after your flight. One of the most striking spots in the hotel is the Sunken Lounge, whose seats are upholstered in bright red. The lounge is located near the soaring windows in the main building and has views out to the airport.

Courtesy, MCR

From the lounge, you can see another of the hotel’s notable features—a vintage airplane that is now a cocktail bar. The 1950s-era Connie aircraft has been restored and transported here from Maine (as many visitors do when in town, it made a pit stop in Times Square along the way); it opens daily at 11am for cocktails, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks. The interior has been outfitted with a full slate of historically accurate details, including a cockpit with actual—though inoperative—controls. Under-21 plane enthusiasts are welcome to play pilot as well.


Courtesy, MCR

If you would rather sip alfresco, head to the hotel’s crowning achievement: a 10,000-square-foot roof deck with a bar and restaurant plus 360-degree views of the active airport. The deck, which includes a heated infinity pool, is open year-round for plane spotting from the lounge chairs or the covered bar. The pool is open to hotel guests; others may make a reservation for sunbathing and savoring a signature Mile High Spritz (prosecco, elderflower liqueur, vodka and lime) between flights.