While absentmindedly munching on Lotus Biscoff cookies and contorting our legs between backpacks and underseat space, we must not be the first travelers to dream of a more refined flight experience. Imagine three course meals, doting flight attendants and ample seats with legroom to spare! These dreams happily came to life when a long layover at JFK Airport allowed us to visit the newly opened TWA Hotel.
The Eero Saarinen designed TWA Flight Center opened in 1962. After TWA’s sale to American Airlines in 2001, the terminal sat vacant for several years. Luckily, visionaries proposed a hotel which began construction in 2016 and opened in May 2019.
At JFK, we took the AirTrain to Terminal Five. When we stepped off of the train, there were red arrows for the TWA Hotel on the floor and we easily followed them out of the building, across the street and down to the hotel.
The futuristic exterior and the contours of the lobby beckoned us to explore. On the first floor we discovered the reception area and a small museum with Jet Age displays. There’s also the stylish Sunken Lounge with its chili-pepper red carpet and booths as well as the original split-flap departure board. Here it’s easy to imagine that you’re having a cocktail and chatting with Frank Sinatra or Audrey Hepburn during your layover.
A hallway exhibit a short walk past the lounge displays colorful posters by David Klein. His illustrations beautifully showcased TWA’s destinations around the world.
Climbing the luxuriously curved staircases, the second floor led us to several restaurants but we weren’t quite ready to eat yet. Instead, we decided to play awhile at the photo booth and whimsical Twister room. Closeby, a curated walk through TWA uniforms over the years amused us with its mid-century fashion and interesting tidbits about flight attendant job perks and requirements in those days.
Walking through one of the red-carpeted tubes, we discovered a small area that recreates Saarinen’s studio with his drafting table and plans for the building’s design. For some reason, there is also a recreated living room. It was fun to see the furniture, lamps and games. We especially liked the original Barbie house and furniture made of cardboard…not plastic!
After exploring inside, we ventured out to the tarmac to board the restored Lockheed Constellation named Connie. Inside its chicly designed interior is a groovy bar that serves vintage-inspired cocktails. This is light-years beyond Lotus Biscoff cookies and bottled water! Now that we’ve had a taste of refined air travel, we can dream of a day where we’re back in the Jet Age!
Take a virtual tour to the TWA hotel with CBS Sunday Morning!