The TWA Flight Center Is Now the TWA Hotel

For almost two decades, this defunct terminal of JFK International Airport lay mostly dormant. After two years of restoration, it has become a space-agey hotel for the jet set.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

It opened to critical acclaim in 1962. Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen for Trans World Airlines (which operated from 1930 to 2001), the mid-century style terminal with its 94m wing-shaped roof was the Futurist embodiment of the jet age.

As modern aviation advanced, the TWA Flight Center became a relic, and closed in 2001. Used in the filming of Ocean’s 8, it seemed handier as a movie set than an airport terminal.

But New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York hotel investment firm MCR (the seventh-largest hotel owner-operator in the US) came together to give the terminal a second life – as the TWA Hotel.

The rehabilitation, which began in 2016 and ended late last year, cost about US$265 million (S$344 million) and transformed the flight centre into a world-class 512-room hotel. 

My Reading Room
My Reading Room

At a whopping 186,000 sq m, TWA Hotel’s lobby is the largest hotel lobby in the world. The establishment stands in front of John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 5, making it the only on-site hotel that’s directly linked to the airport. Room rates are from US$250 a night. 

My Reading Room

The rooms are housed in two new six-storey buildings on either side of Saarinen’s landmark building, while the crescent-shaped structure between the former TWA Flight Center and Jetblue’s Terminal 5 holds a sunken lounge bar, a rooftop pool, a grand ballroom, and a 929 sq m observation deck for guests to watch planes take off and land.

As a tribute to its ’60s history, its interior decor includes Knoll furniture and a rotary phone in every room.

Although TWA Hotel caters mostly to stopover passengers, it already has a fashion fan: Louis Vuitton showed its Cruise 2020 collection there in May 2019, and probably won’t be the last fashion brand to regard it as a destination hotel. – JC