The Eero Saarinen designed TWA Terminal Hotel is the Disneyland for airline geeks! If you’ve already checked out my avgeek background, it won’t surprise you that sometimes I feel like I was a pilot in a previous life. Probably one who flew through JFK many times. Maybe even walked the red carpets of the Eero Saarinen designed TWA Terminal, which is now a fabulous bygone-era inspired hotel.
My friend Matt and I recently traveled to Vermont to check out the fall colors and booked the TWA Hotel for our final night in NYC before flying out early the next morning. With so many fun and memorable moments over the weekend, there wasn’t time to obsess about the hotel. In fact, we were quite tired from a fantastic New England weekend and the five hour drive back into NYC to release the rental car. The shuttle carted us to the rental car stop of the JFK Air Train and we jogged along the rail to Terminal 5, which is JetBlue’s home.
The terminal was ablaze with normal JFK activity, and we were eager to settle in to our hotel room for some rest. Energies were quickly waning, but in the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Saarinan designed building from the upper level of Terminal 5 and ran out across the roadway to snap my first of what would become hundreds of photos of the iconic building and experience.
From this moment, I was in a magical airline geek heaven. A true playground where spirits of the past intermingled with today’s version of memories. Details brought back to life through a diligent group of designers breathing aviation nostalgia love into a modern business plan. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. With a new shot of adrenaline, it was time to explore and soak it all in.
As if the hotel and the millions of details weren’t enough, it happened to be the evening of a large reunion of TWA employees. Many worked for the airline during the heyday of the Saarinen terminal at JFK. They were friendly, funny and openly shared captivating stories. One couple became acquainted in the lower level of the building; he worked the ramp and she was a ticket agent. They met 54 years ago and were married 53 years ago. The history came to life with the people and their memories.
I’ve stayed in a ton of airport hotels all over the world and this one is the best. Let me bring my hotel experience alive with photos from the energetically charged overnight stay at the newly opened TWA Hotel.
External views of the Eero Saarinen designed TWA Terminal Hotel, which originally opened in 1962 and is now newly renovated.
The travel portal from 2019 JetBlue to 1962 TWA.
The connection from Terminal 5 to the hotel is masterfully designed to allow a feeling of walking into a portal; the special TWA Hotel elevator available on the baggage claim level. The elevator goes up one level as the buttons say, “1960s TWA Hotel” and the elevator door opens to a whole new world of air travel.
My heart raced and eyes widened as I surveyed both sides of the vestibule. On the left a full wall pictorgraph of the iconic Super Constellation, which would be the final grand turboprop airframe before the jet age. The right corner held a replica of Howard Hugh’s office.
The main entrance to the iconic terminal opens up to a retro flight display, 1960’s vintage automobiles and a commanding Mezzanine Level.
The Eero Saarinen TWA Terminal Hotel is a full service operation.
The hotel masterfully mixes whimsy with practical amenities, all in a very stylish package. And the service is the cherry on top. We had a mixup with our booking and the staff were gracious and quickly worked to help resolve the issue. Since there is a main roadway entrance (the other option is the previously mentioned elevator from Terminal 5), the valets stand out front wearing TWA ramp uniforms. Every employee we encountered embodied professionalism, humor and grace.
There seemed to be endless nooks and crannies to explore. From the TWA flight attendant outfits on display to a quiet reading room to the TWA Shop, we navigated the complex like the flowing lines of the grand stairway.
The Paris Cafe is the main full service restaurant, and there are other lower key food options available as well as stylish lobby bars, including the Sunken Lounge. The Connie and rooftop pool and bar offer sophisticated flagship experiences. A full fitness center rocks the basement level, and the hotel appears to be well equipped for smaller meetings and group events.
The rooms are located in two different modern towers with full amenities you’d expect from any airport hotel. More details on the hotel particulars can be found at the end of this post.
Take a ride through 1960’s air at Connie Lounge.
Perhaps the most unique feature to the Saarinen TWA Terminal Hotel is the lounge built entirely within a vintage airplane. And not just any vintage airplane; this is Connie.
The Lockheed Constellation, or “Connie” for short, was the queen of the skies in the 1950’s leading up to the jet age. TWA operated these aircraft between Los Angeles and New York City and on to various points in Europe. She lived a very glamorous life.
The Saarinen terminal was designed with the Connie in mind, but by the time of completion in 1962 larger jets like the Boeing 707 offered a more comfortable and quicker ride. Connie began a graceful fade away into history and there are reportedly only 4 left in the world.
The TWA Hotel commissioned a renovation of a Connie to bring alive the feel of the past. Learn about the Connie Airplane Restoration. The bright bird is on display in front of terminal and serves as a full cocktail lounge.
The pool deck is atop the 9 story Hughes Wing and overlooks the ramp area between JFK Terminals 4 & 5.
Do you want to stay in the Eero Saarinen designed TWA Terminal Hotel?
Whether or not you’re an avgeek like me, the TWA Hotel is located in a very practical location for flights to/from JFK. It is the only hotel located on the airport grounds. Perhaps best in particular for Terminal 5, which houses JetBlue’s operation as well as Hawaiian Air, TAP Air Portugal and Aer Lingus. And we easily walked at street level from the front doors of the hotel to Terminal 7 to jump on our Alaska Airlines jet. Close proximity to the Air Train ensures that it won’t take too long to get to your flight.
Pricing is very fair for an on-hotel-grounds property, and basic rooms run around $220/night. I’ve often wished more airport hotels offered partial day options for long layovers, and the TWA Hotel has this well covered. They sell 4 hour blocks of time that range between 99$ – 150$.
When selecting a room, the hotel has three location options. All rooms are in either the Hughes or Saarinen Wings.
- Runway view. This was our room scenario and it was fantastic to wake up in the morning and literally stare out of bed at airplanes maneuvering through ramp space to gates and/or runways. Best for the avgeek. Most of these rooms would be on the Hughes Wing, which is also the same wing with the rooftop pool and bar. We were on the 8th floor which is the highest and best runway views.
- Historic TWA view. Facing inward toward the main buildings of the TWA Hotel, including the Connie. These rooms would be on either the Hughes Wing or the Saarinen Wing. Judging from the view from the rooftop pool bar, this would be beautiful as well at higher level floors. Also note that at night the patrons in the Paris Cafe and other parts of the lounges in the main building can see directly into the rooms.
- Other rooms. These rooms would be standard, which are very comfortable but without a specific view. Located in either wing.